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The American League Central champion Cleveland Guardians look for a seventh consecutive series victory as they face the rival Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon at home.

The Guardians (89-69) activated right-hander Zach Plesac from the 15-day IL to start Saturday night, but he struggled in yielding four runs (one earned) in just 3 2/3 innings of work, including a three-run fourth inning that knocked him out of the contest.

The Royals went on to put forth a thorough 7-1 win to even the weekend series. Kris Bubic dominated with five innings of shutout ball with eight strikeouts while both Drew Waters and Salvador Perez hit solo home runs in the winning effort. Kyle Isbel delivered a clutch two-out, two-run double in the fourth to give the road side more than enough run support for the victory.

Right-hander Max Castillo (0-1, 4.98 ERA) is the projected starter for the Royals (64-94). Castillo — acquired in a trade-deadline deal with the Toronto Blue Jays — will make his 14th appearance and sixth big league start of the season. Castillo will make his fourth start (fifth appearance) with his new club on Sunday.

“He had great command of the fastball,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said after Castillo’s Royals debut.” The slider was better than what I remember it being.”

His most recent outing came out of the Royals’ bullpen, but the youngster surrendered three earned runs while failing to record an out after surrendering six earned runs over four innings in his most recent start on Sept. 25 against the Seattle Mariners.

The Guardians will send ace Shane Bieber (12-8, 2.91 ERA) to the mound for Sunday’s finale. The 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner allowed more than three earned runs for just the first time over his last 12 starts when he allowed four versus the Tampa Bay Rays his last time out. The right-hander’s outing was briefly halted by a 23-minute rain delay.

“Felt good in my delivery. Felt good coming out of the weather delay and then somewhere in there had a little bit of a lapse and gave up a few extra-base hits and would have liked a few pitches back, obviously.” Bieber said. “It is what it is. On to the next one.”

Bieber has faced the Royals twice this season, including on Opening Day in Kansas City. He’s allowed two runs (one earned) in 12 2/3 innings with 11 strikeouts against just one walk in those outings, going 1-0 in the process. In 12 career starts against his division rivals, Bieber has gone a clean 5-0 with a 3.12 ERA.

In addition to Plesac’s activation, the Guardians also selected the contract of catcher Bo Naylor from Triple-A Columbus. Infielder Tyler Freeman was optioned to Columbus while veteran reliever Bryan Shaw was designated for assignment.

Naylor, the brother of teammate Josh Naylor, struck out in his lone plate appearance Saturday before flying out to end the game after replacing Luke Maile behind the plate.

Shaw posted a 5.40 ERA across 60 outings this season in his second stint with the club after pitching five seasons with Cleveland from 2013-17.

The two clubs face each other three times to conclude their season beginning next week, all three of which are re-scheduled contests due to rainouts earlier in the season.

–Field Level Media