When the Cleveland Guardians last saw the Kansas City Royals in their opening series of the season, the Guardians' offense produced one run in the first two games and 27 in the final two contests.
For most of this season, Cleveland's offense has produced similar inconsistencies, and manager Terry Francona hopes to see his youthful team start getting on a roll Monday evening when it hosts the Royals in the opener of a three-game series.
Cleveland owns a .243 batting average, which is fourth in the American League, and has 193 runs while ranking toward the bottom of the league with 37 homers. A reason for some of the inconsistencies can be pinned on recent results.
Cleveland is 1-4 over its past five contests, and in its win, the Guardians collected 11 hits in an 8-1 victory at Detroit on Saturday. A day later, Cleveland went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and produced seven hits in a 2-1 loss to Detroit.
"We've seen a lot of excitement and a new way that our team is coming together to play the game offensively," Cleveland general manager Mike Chernoff told reporters.
"But with that youth we've also seen some mistakes and the ups and downs that come with a very young team. Our hope is that as we get through the year we'll see less and less of those and maybe go through less of the ups and downs."
Sunday marked the 12th time Cleveland was held to one run or less, but its offense also has reached double digits in runs five times. Cleveland also has scored at least five runs in 17 games.
On Sunday, Cleveland's top three hitters of Myles Straw, Amed Rosario and Jose Ramirez were a combined 0-for-9. Ramirez went hitless after getting five RBIs and is hitting .244 this month after hitting .342 in April.
Kansas City is 6-11 over its past 17 contests despite an improved offense since May 12 that has seen Whit Merrifield heat up lately. Merrifield batted .135 through his first 26 games, but over his past 20, he is batting .297 (27-for-91).
Merrifield was 0-for-4 Sunday when the Royals were unable to get a series win in Minnesota and took a 7-3 loss. Rookie Bobby Witt Jr. also was 0-for-4 Sunday after getting three doubles Saturday and is hitting .370 (10-for-27) in his past six contests.
"He's just got freakish ability when he puts it all together," Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said of Witt. "Just watching how the ball jumps off his bat, how quick his hands are, making things happen."
Witt will look to continue his hot streak against Cleveland right-hander Zach Plesac (1-4, 5.40 ERA), who is 0-3 with an 8.41 ERA in his past five starts.
Plesac last pitched Monday at Houston when he allowed seven runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 7-3 loss.
Plesac is 6-0 with a 2.37 ERA in 10 career starts against Kansas City. He last faced them April 9 and allowed three hits in 5 2/3 innings of a no-decision.
Right-hander Jonathan Heasley (0-2, 4.73) will make his fourth start of the season and seventh career start for Kansas City, but his first against the Guardians. He last pitched in Tuesday's 8-6 loss at Arizona when he allowed three runs and four hits in five innings of a no-decision.
--Field Level Media