A trip to the postseason is a long shot for the Cleveland Guardians, but manager Terry Francona's team is gaining some momentum as it builds for the future.
After completing a sweep of a three-game series against the Texas Rangers on Sunday, the Guardians have a quick turnaround and will hit the road for a meeting with the host Kansas City Royals on Monday afternoon.
The Guardians (72-78) are 7-3 against the Royals (48-102) this season as they head into the opener of a three-game set. On Sunday, Cleveland scored nine runs in the fourth inning of a 9-2 rout of the Rangers.
Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez belted his 24th home run of the season and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games.
"You can use any superlative just about you want, and he checks that box," Francona said of Ramirez. "That's the kind of player he is."
Kansas City enters the series having won four of its last five games, including a pair of victories against the Houston Astros over the weekend.
Even though the Royals lost 7-1 on Sunday, manager Matt Quatraro likes how his team competed against the defending World Series champs.
"Every win is big for us," Quatraro said. "Building confidence, understanding we can play with teams like (Houston). ... When you're going to beat good teams, you've got to take their punches and be able to come back because it's rare when you face a good team with a good offense (and you) keep them down the whole time."
On Monday, Cleveland will start right-hander Cal Quantrill (3-6, 5.40 ERA), who allowed one run on five hits through six innings last Tuesday to earn a win against the San Francisco Giants. He walked three and struck out two.
Quantrill is 6-0 with a 2.93 ERA in nine career appearances (six starts) against Kansas City.
The Royals will start right-hander Brady Singer (8-11, 5.51), who will face Cleveland for the third time this season.
Between those two previous outings, Singer has gone 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA. He got shelled in his most recent start versus the Guardians, giving up six runs on 13 hits in five innings to take a loss back on July 8.
In 11 career appearances (10 starts), Singer is 2-2 with a 4.88 ERA against Cleveland.
The Royals gave Salvador Perez the day off on Sunday after the veteran catcher was hit in the mask by a foul ball on Saturday. The club says Perez showed no signs of having a concussion.
"As you'd expect, he wants to play," Quatraro said of Perez. "We're trying to be cautious."
A constant for the Guardians has been left fielder Steven Kwan, who has gone 7-for-17 (.412) over his last four games. He went 2-for-5 in Sunday's victory.
"It's so nice when he's up," Francona said of Kwan's presence at the plate. "You know he's not going to pull off. He's going to give himself a chance to get a hit."
—Field Level Media