Royals target milestones as Indians visit in final week

Field Level Media

September 28, 2021 at 2:21 am.

The Kansas City Royals were effectively out of the postseason race early, but as they prepare for their last homestand of the season, there are individual milestones still to reach.

That fact is not lost on manager Mike Matheny.

The Royals will face the Cleveland Indians for a three-game series beginning Tuesday night. The two teams played Monday in Cleveland to make up a rainout from Sept. 22. The Indians clubbed the Royals 8-3 to close the home portion of their schedule.

Right-hander Aaron Civale (11-5, 3.90 ERA) will get the start for the Indians. The Royals will send righty Brady Singer (5-10, 4.72) to the mound.

“We don’t try and keep on top of anything,” Matheny said, “but you’ve got to celebrate. What Salvy (catcher Salvador Perez) is in the middle of is a huge deal. We’re all over it.”

Perez is tied for the major league lead with 46 home runs, and he leads the majors with 117 RBIs. He’s two home runs short of the team record, set in 2019 by Jorge Soler.

Second baseman Whit Merrifield, who has led the majors in hits and stolen bases multiple times in his career, needs one double to become the fifth player in MLB history to have 40 doubles and 40 stolen bases in the same season twice. He’s fourth in hits (177) and second in stolen bases (40) in all of baseball this season.

Shortstop Nicky Lopez, who wasn’t scheduled to make the Opening Day roster until Adalberto Mondesi went on the injured list, is hitting .302 with six games remaining. He has not hit above .240 in his two previous major league seasons.

Matheny preaches process and focusing only on the next day’s game. He worked his way back to that message.

“We want to play really good baseball,” he said. “Every single day we feel like we take one step closer to being the kind of team we all want to be and believe we can be. The individual side is our guys buying into doing the right thing for winning baseball. The natural byproduct is individual accolades or accomplishments.”

Civale has lost three of his last four starts and has struggled in two of those outings. He gave up seven runs (five earned) in three innings against Milwaukee on Sept. 12. Following a win over the Yankees in his next start, he allowed seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings against the White Sox on Sept. 23.

“He missed up in the zone with his fastball,” Indians acting manager DeMarlo Hale said of Civale. “You think about that six-run second inning, the home runs were on fastballs. I think one was on the cutter — (by Tim) Anderson — and all of them were up.

“It’s kind of interesting because he pitched down in the zone a little bit more in New York. I thought the balls were up today and they were flying out of here.”

Civale has one no-decision against the Royals in 2021. He’s 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two career starts against Kansas City.

Singer has more experience against the Indians, including his MLB debut. He’s 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four career head-to-head starts, including 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA this season in two starts.

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