When last the Indians saw the Kansas City Royals, the two clubs were finishing a split of their four-game series in Missouri with the Royals coming from behind in the ninth inning and winning 3-2, last Thursday.
Since then, the Tribe has dropped two more in Minnesota, while Kansas City went to Texas and was swept by the Rangers over the weekend, giving both clubs a three-game losing streak.
The Indians still lead the Central Division by a game and a half, but the Royals no longer hold sole possession of second place, as the Detroit Tigers have caught Kansas City at 12-10.
Tonight at Progressive Field, the Tribe and Royals play the first of three games, with game-time at 7:05. Something has to give and one of these teams will end a losing streak, while the other will feel the screws tightening even more.
Justin Masterson will go for win number five on the season tonight in a rematch of his start last week against Kansas City's Luke Hochevar (2-2, 5.12 ERA). In that game, which ended up being a 7-5 Cleveland victory, Masterson gave up two runs in the first inning but then shut the Royals down through the rest of his six innings. The control was a little spotty, as Masterson gave up five walks to go with six hits, but Masterson kept the Tribe in the game until the offense woke up.
On the season Masterson is 4-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
Hochevar was untouchable in five innings in that start last Wednesday, but the wheels came off in the sixth, and Hochevar's line for the game showed six runs surrendered in six innings of work; he gave up only five hits and three walks while striking out four, but -- after retiring the first 15 Indians -- Hochevar crumbled once Cleveland got it going.
The Royals are hitting a pretty healthy .269 as a team. leaving them fourth in the majors in batting. Wilson Betemit comes in to this series batting .364, with Alex Gordon not far behind at .356. Jeff Francoeur leads Kansas City with four homers and 18 RBI.
The Indians, meanwhile, are hitting .263, led by Travis Hafner at .348 in players with over 30 at-bats on the season. Hafner and Asdrubal Cabrera share the team lead with four long-balls, and Asdrubal has been the top run-producer for the Tribe with 14 RBI.
The series will continue after tonight's game with 7:05 games on Wednesday and Thursday before the Tigers come to town for a three-game set over the weekend.