Seth Lugo, Royals chase series win against Guardians

After Saturday’s 7-2 win, the visiting Cleveland Guardians will try to earn a series split against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon.

Cleveland’s big division lead allows time to resolve rotation issues, with Triston McKenzie in particular.

The right-hander’s command issues have become more acute, leading to a poor outing in Friday’s 10-3 loss when he walked three and surrendered two homers in 2 2/3 innings, expanding his season totals to 49 walks and 19 home runs allowed — both major league highs.

In his past three starts, McKenzie allowed 12 runs and five homers while walking 11 in 8 2/3 innings. He insists he is healthy and has lost no velocity, despite the 3-5 record and 5.11 ERA.

“I was behind a lot of guys, and they were able to put good swings on pitches when they were ahead in the count,” McKenzie said. “No matter the velocity, the hitters in the league are very good. If I’m not able to get ahead of guys, they’re able to hit.”

“He said he felt good,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said. “Triston’s struggling with his command. He’s working really hard to get back dialed in and be himself. Then the game happens, and you’ve got to stick with what you see in-game.”

Gavin Williams, whose rehab assignment ends Sunday, may be an alternative rotation option.

“We’re still sorting through what we have to do,” Vogt said. “There’s a lot to consider, a lot of things we need to talk through still, so we should know more by (Sunday).”

Matthew Boyd, officially added to the Guardians’ 40-man roster Saturday, is a longer-range option. Recovering from Tommy John surgery, he was placed on the 15-day injured list and sent on a rehab assignment.

“We’re excited to have him,” Vogt said. “He’s been a successful starter in the big leagues. He’s getting built up and when he finishes his rehab, he’ll be an option for us.”

In Sunday’s series finale, Cleveland sends lefty Logan Allen (8-3, 5.72 ERA) against Kansas City right-hander Seth Lugo (10-2, 2.29).

Allen allowed six runs on nine hits — including three homers — in three innings in his most recent start Tuesday in a 10-8 win at Baltimore. He was 0-2 with a 5.27 ERA in three 2023 starts against the Royals, surrendering home runs to Maikel Garcia, Salvador Perez and MJ Melendez.

In his lone start against the Guardians on June 4, Lugo permitted a season-high five runs on six hits in six innings, allowing homers by Josh Naylor and Tyler Freeman. He didn’t get a decision in the 8-5 loss.

Tied for the major league lead with 10 wins, Lugo has been especially good in his past three starts, striking out 20 in 18 2/3 innings while allowing four runs on 14 hits. He struck out eight in six scoreless innings against the Miami Marlins on June 25.

Overall, opponents are hitting .220 and slugging .339 against Lugo, but in high-leverage situations, he limits them to a .179 average and .284 slugging.

“The whole purpose of my game plan (is) to pitch in the zone and offer contact,” he said. “Once a guy gets on base or in scoring position, that’s when I’ve got to bear down and get swing-and-miss and punchouts.”

–Field Level Media