The American League Central champion Cleveland Guardians will open their final 2022 series against the division rival Kansas City Royals when the clubs begin a three-game set on Friday night.
The visiting Royals (63-93) will be looking to rebound from a stinging 10-3 defeat in Detroit on Thursday, a result that allowed the Tigers to complete a three-game home sweep.
Down 10-0 after seven innings, Kansas City finally got a two-run double from pinch hitter Ryan O'Hearn and an RBI double from Nate Eaton, but the Royals fell a half-game behind Detroit (63-92) into last in the division.
Kansas City made moves Thursday involving a pair of right-handers, activating Taylor Clarke off the injured list and optioning Jose Cuas to Triple-A Omaha. Clarke, 29, wound up facing one batter in the finale vs. the Tigers and recording a strikeout.
Recovered from a left oblique strain, Clarke is 3-1 with a 3.99 ERA and two saves in 45 appearances out of the Royals' bullpen.
Cuas, 28, is an interesting reliever the organization is trying to keep fresh.
A converted shortstop who nearly quit the game, the 28-year-old former University of Maryland Terrapin has posted solid numbers on the team's back end.
Across 47 outings and 37 2/3 innings, Cuas sports a 4-2 record, one save and a 3.58 ERA with 34 strikeouts. Hits allowed (39) and walks (24, two intentional) have been a concern, resulting in a 1.673 WHIP.
Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said the workload may be taking its toll on the former middle infielder.
"If you look at his ability to throw strikes, in the past and especially early on in the season, I think when you see that start to fall off a little bit, you're just seeing fatigue," Matheny said. "We talk about all the starters, about understanding that this time of year is new for them. This is way new for Jose."
Kansas City's Brady Singer (10-4, 2.99 ERA) will start in Cleveland on Friday as he seeks to extend his career-high win total.
In four starts during September, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA. Against the Guardians, he owns a career mark of 2-0 with a 4.25 ERA in eight games, seven of them starts. Singer has no decisions and a 5.63 ERA in three games, two starts, vs. Cleveland this year.
The Guardians (88-68) did Thursday night what they do better than any club in the American League: win very late.
Oscar Gonzalez's two-out infield single scored Steven Kwan to cap a two-run, eighth-inning rally that lifted Cleveland to a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Guardians won the final two games of the three-game series.
"We just have a bunch of dogs on our team," said Will Brennan, who started the rally with a pinch-hit single.
The Guardians lead the AL with 29 victories in their final at-bat.
Aaron Civale (3-6, 5.19 ERA) will start on Friday for Cleveland, which pushed back Zach Plesac to Saturday as he comes back from a broken hand.
Civale earned a win in his latest start, giving up two runs in five innings during a 10-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Sunday. In two starts against the Royals this season, he is 0-0 with a 2.61 ERA. In five career starts vs. Kansas City, he is 0-1 with a 4.61 ERA.
--Field Level Media