Just a few games back in the American League wild card race, the Kansas City Royals are throwing the Cleveland Indians a curveball.
The Indians should see plenty of hooks on Tuesday night from Yordano Ventura, who makes his Major League debut with the Royals in the second contest of a three-game series.
With Danny Duffy scratched from his scheduled start due to a mild flexor strain, the Royals will summon Ventura from Triple-A Omaha to take the mound. He is rated Kansas City's second-best prospect by MLB.com and has gone a combined 8-6 with a 3.14 earned run average and 155 strikeouts across 134 2/3 innings in 26 games at both Double and Triple-A.
Ventura steps in for Duffy, who has made five starts since having Tommy John surgery last June. The 22-year-old righty has a fastball that can reach the upper 90s despite his 5-foot-11 frame to go along with a great curveball that racks up strikeouts.
"I think we're all excited to see Ventura pitch," Royals manager Ned Yost told his club's website. "I've had my eye on this guy like we all have for the last two or three years watching him come up in the system and I really made it a point at Spring Training to be on the Minor League fields when he was throwing batting practice or even throwing a side."
The Royals are putting their faith in the untested Dominican despite sitting just 2 1/2 games back of the league's second wild card race following Monday's 7-1 victory over the Indians.
Cleveland, meanwhile, is a half-game behind Texas for that second playoff berth. Tampa Bay holds the first wild card spot and is hosting the Rangers for a four-game set that began on Monday.
The Tribe missed a chance to move into the second wild card spot after striking out 17 times versus the Royals on Monday night. That was a franchise record for Kansas City in a nine-inning game and 10 of those were by starter James Shields, who gave up just one run on six hits.
Six different Kansas City hitters drove in a run, including Salvador Perez, who had three of his club's 14 hits.
The Royals won for the sixth time in nine games.
"We want it. I think everybody can see that. We just have to continue to battle every single day and hopefully we can get into the wild card slot," said Lorenzo Cain, who drove in a run."
Lonnie Chisenhall hit a homer for the Indians, who were coming off a four-game sweep of the White Sox and fell six games behind Cleveland for first place in the AL Central.
Scott Kazmir gave up four runs on seven hits while striking out six over five- plus innings for Cleveland.
"They are a very scrappy team," Kazmir said of the Royals. "They go out there and try and get that extra base. They just push the envelope. That's kind of their M.O. That's something we have to be aware of."
Corey Kluber is tasked with slowing down the Royals tonight and has won both of his starts since missing a month with a sprained right middle finger. He has pitched consecutive five-inning outings versus the New York Mets and White Sox, allowing two runs in each.
The 27-year-old righty hurled 7 2/3 scoreless innings in a victory the last time he faced Kansas City on July 12, remaining unbeaten against the club at 2-0 with a 4.44 ERA in four meetings.
The Royals have won three in a row over the Indians and trail in the season series 9-8.