Smoke signals

Smoke signals

• The Indians and Royals are scheduled for six meetings over the next 10 days, beginning with Monday night's clash at Progressive Field. Entering Monday, the Tribe had an 8-5 record in the season series, having won three in a row and six of the past eight games.

"They're better now," Francona said. "Early on, their offense wasn't clicking. Now, they've got some guys starting to swing it. They're very athletic. They run the bases. They've got a lot of basestealers. That's part of their game."

• Indians left fielder Michael Brantley rejoined the team on Monday and was in the lineup as the No. 5 hitter for the opener of the three-game series. Brantley had been in Florida with his wife, Melissa, who gave birth to their first child, a daughter, Mariah.

• Entering Monday's game, Kansas City and Cleveland boasted the top two pitching staffs in the American League in the second half. Since the All-Star break, the Royals had posted an AL-best 3.03 ERA, while the Indians were next on the list with a 3.28 ERA.

• In Sunday's loss to the Mets, rookie starter Danny Salazar piled up eight strikeouts in four innings of work. Salazar became only the third Tribe pitcher since at least 1916 to record at least eight strikeouts in four innings or less (Luis Tiant, Aug. 17, 1967; Jeremy Sowers, July 13, 2008).

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.