Hot-hitting Indians take aim at Royals again

Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez struggled early this season for the Cleveland Indians, but they are coming on fast now.

Kipnis and Ramirez aim to continue their torrid stretches at the plate on Tuesday as the Indians bid for a series victory over the visiting Kansas City Royals.

Cleveland has won nine of its past 11 to improve to an American League-best 15-6 in June. Kansas City has lost three of its past four.

Kipnis highlighted his three-hit performance on Monday by homering to lead off the 10th inning, giving the Indians a 3-2 victory. The 32-year-old is batting .471 (16-for-34) with four homers, 14 RBIs and eight runs in his past nine games to boost his season average to .248.

"Sometimes a guy will get the feel ... with Kip, I think it's his hands," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "Sometimes he feels like his hands are underwater. That's not what he says, but he has such good hitter's hands that when he feels good, he's pretty dangerous."

Ramirez ripped a pair of doubles, walked twice, drove in a run and scored another in the series opener. The 26-year-old has three multi-hit performances in his last four games and has hit safely in 10 of his past 11 contests.

"We've been talking a lot. If this team is going to get going, it's going to be with us," Kipnis said, referring to himself and Ramirez. "We dug ourselves a nice little hole at the beginning of the year, so it's up to us to get out of it. But you know what? Starting off a little slow keeps you locked in for the rest of the way."

Cleveland right-hander Shane Bieber (6-3, 3.86 ERA) will get the nod on Tuesday looking to avenge his first loss since May 13 in his last outing.

Bieber allowed two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts in six innings of a 4-2 setback at Texas on Thursday.

The 24-year-old won both of his career starts against Kansas City, both in 2018, despite permitting four runs in each contest. Royals first baseman/designated hitter Lucas Duda is 3-for-6 with a pair of homers and four RBIs versus Bieber.

Bieber also will need to keep tabs on Whit Merrifield, who has hit safely in 13 of his past 14 games.

Merrifield homered to lead off the fourth inning and had a single in the sixth during the series opener to improve to 8-for-19 (.421) with two homers and three RBIs against the Indians this season. He is 2-for-6 with a homer in his career against Bieber.

Kansas City right-hander Glenn Sparkman (2-3, 3.62 ERA) will take the mound on Tuesday after allowing one run on five hits in a career-high seven innings of a 4-1 victory versus Minnesota on Thursday.

The 27-year-old pitched well in his lone career start versus Cleveland, allowing one run on five hits in five innings during a no-decision last September.

Royals manager Ned Yost would love for Sparkman to pitch as well as Brad Keller did Monday. Keller struck out four over three scoreless innings before his night ended after a 2-hour, 23-minute rain delay.

"It's too bad. Keller was really sharp (Monday)," Yost said. "It's too bad we couldn't have lengthened him out today with the stuff that he had."

The availability of Cleveland's Jake Bauers is in question after he sprained his left ankle and limped off the field while shagging fly balls during batting practice on Monday.

"If he can play (Tuesday), he will," Francona said. "We all thought it was really bad when it happened, but he's going to be OK."

--Field Level Media


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