When Kansas City's Kris Medlen and Cleveland's Josh Tomlin faced off earlier this month, it was the former getting the win and the latter throwing a complete game. Both again did their jobs in follow-up efforts to further their impressive, albeit abbreviated seasons.
The rematch of AL Central starters enjoying comeback campaigns comes Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium with the Indians looking to get within two games of the second wild card.
Cleveland (76-76) beat the Royals 6-0 on Friday behind Carlos Carrasco's one-hitter, gaining a game on struggling Houston for the final playoff spot. The Indians have split their last 10 games, but the rotation has more than done its part with a 2.30 ERA and .205 opponent batting average.
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Kansas City (89-64), meanwhile, has lost 15 of 24 and is just a game up on Toronto for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Manager Ned Yost didn't regret resting regulars in the opener.
"We accomplished the main goal we wanted to in the regular season, and now it's on to the secondary goals," Yost told MLB's official website. "We wanted to win the division. We did that. We were focused on winning the All-Star Game so we can get home-field advantage in the World Series. We did that. Now it's just about home-field advantage from here on."
Alex Rios had the Royals' only hit Friday, is batting .392 in his last 21 games, and his .270 season mark is higher than it's been since beginning June at .281.
Medlen (5-1, 3.51 ERA) allowed three unearned runs in five innings of Sunday's 10-3 win in Detroit for his second straight victory after limiting the Indians to five hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 2-0 road win Sept. 15.
The right-hander, who returned just after the All-Star break from elbow surgery, made seven relief appearances before joining the rotation Aug. 24. After struggling through his first three starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA in his last three, though he's still working through some things.
"When he came into the dugout, I asked, 'How did you feel?'" Yost said after the start against Cleveland. "And he said, 'Man, I was fighting my mechanics all night.' And I thought, 'That's a good sign. Imagine what he'll be like with good mechanics.'"
Medlen has won both of his career starts against the Indians with 11 hits in 13 1-3 scoreless innings.
Tomlin (6-2, 2.43) might have had better stuff in the loss, giving up two runs and four hits in nine innings. The right-hander followed it up with Sunday's 6-3 home win over the Chicago White Sox, surrendering four hits in 5 2-3 scoreless innings to win for the sixth time in seven starts since dropping his season debut Aug. 15.
He is just eight starts into his return from shoulder surgery and has two complete games in four outings this month while posting a 1.84 ERA and .163 opponent batting average.
"It feels good right now to be out there and contributing to this team and being consistent, and going out every fifth day and not worrying about my arm or anything going haywire or getting a start pushed back or anything like that," Tomlin said.
Tomlin is 2-3 with a 5.77 ERA in five starts and four relief appearances against the Royals since the start of 2012. Salvador Perez (8 for 12 with a home run), Rios (6 for 14 with a homer) and Mike Moustakas (6 for 15 with two homers) have had the most success, but Ben Zobrist is 1 for 17.