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Five things we learned Saturday: Indians pulling away from Royals

1. The Cleveland Indians' rotation continues to roll. Last week, the Royals swept the Indians in Kansas City, leaving the two teams tied for the American League Central lead. Since that series, the Indians have won eight in a row while the Royals have gone 3-5, allowing Cleveland to quickly open up a five-game lead. Carlos Carrasco tossed his third career shutout to beat the Tigers on Saturday, the latest gem from a rotation that has a 1.78 ERA over this eight-game stretch with a .158 average allowed. Even more impressive is the rotation's record for June; the Indians have surged to a 17-6 record with a 2.62 ERA and .215 average allowed. The bullpen has been just as impressive, with a 2.14 ERA in June. The Indians lead the majors in both rotation ERA and bullpen ERA in June.

2. The Kansas City Royals' rotation continues to reel. Meanwhile, a Kansas City starter got pounded for the second game in a row as the Astros scored seven runs in the second inning off Chris Young, a day after scoring nine runs in the first inning off Edinson Volquez. It was the first time the Astros scored 13 or more runs in consecutive games since Sept. 2000. Young's rotation job has to be in jeopardy as his ERA skies to 6.54. He has pitched five innings just four times in 11 starts (never more than six) and allowed an ungodly 21 home runs in just 53 2/3 innings. That's the highest rate of home runs per nine innings in MLB history, minimum of 50 innings pitched:

1. Chris Young, 2016 Royals: 3.52

2. Glendon Rusch, 2006 Cubs: 2.85

3. Kent Bottenfield, 2001 Astros: 2.77

4. Matt Boyd, 2015 Blue Jays-Tigers: 2.67

5. Ken Dixon, 1987 Orioles: 2.66

Anyway, here's the bigger picture with the Indians and Royals -- their season rotation numbers:

Cleveland: 3.63 ERA, 6 1/3 innings pitched per start, .236/.289/.390, 22.3 percent K rate

Kansas City: 5.11 ERA, 5 1/3 innings pitched per start, .265/.339/.457, 20.3 percent K rate

The Royals are 28th in the majors in rotation ERA, last in home runs allowed. Yes, the Royals have the best bullpen ERA in the majors at 2.80, which has once again been the savior of their season, but the Indians have a solid 3.25 bullpen ERA and have scored 57 more runs. FanGraphs' playoff odds pegs the Indians at 82.7 percent to win the division. Maybe that underestimates the Royals' lights-out bullpen, but the Indians are clearly the division favorites now.

P.S.: Jose Altuve missed the cycle when he stumbled over second base.

P.P.S.: The Astros are rolling ...

3. Baltimore Orioles sweep a doubleheader. In the first game, Kevin Gausman earned his first win with seven scoreless innings in a 5-0 win over the Rays. In the nightcap, the Orioles won 8-6 as Adam Jones homered again, giving him nine home runs and 21 RBIs in June -- not bad for a leadoff guy. But here's a reason to love the O's: We know about super closer Zach Britton and his 0.83 ERA -- I'd take him over any other closer right now. But with Darren O'Day on the DL, Brad Brach has emerged as a terrific setup guy, with a 1.05 ERA and 50 Ks in 42 2/3 innings and a .155 average allowed that beats Britton's .159. Once O'Day returns, the Orioles will have a late-game trio that matches up with the Royals and Yankees.

4. San Diego Padres actually have multiple All-Star possibilities! Admit it, this catches you by surprise. They beat the Reds 3-0, and all three of their potential All-Star reps played a part:

  • Drew Pomeranz: Threw seven scoreless innings (and hit a home run!), improved to 7-7 with a 2.76 ERA and 102 Ks in 88 innings pitched.

  • Fernando Rodney: Got his 17th save, has an 0.31 ERA while allowing one earned in 28.2 IP.

  • Wil Myers: He drew two walks, has 10 home runs in June and season totals of .286/.341/.528 with 17 HRs, 50 RBIs.

Who makes it? I'm guessing Pomeranz gets edged out by a deep group of starting pitching candidates in the National League. First base is more wide open; assuming Anthony Rizzo maintains his lead in the balloting, Paul Goldschmidt is the likely backup (voted by the players). Myers is third in a WAR, but there's no guarantee three first basemen make it, and Freddie Freeman might be chosen to rep the Braves. Rodney would seem like the lock; I mean, it's hard to leave off a guy who has allowed just two runs all season.

5. Albert Pujols passes Harmon Killebrew for 11th on the all-time home run list. For you kids out there, Pujols used to be the best player in baseball. He was pretty awesome.