The Royals are getting near being in must-win mode if they want to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985.
Monday night's 4-3 loss to the Indians, who are also battling for an American League Wild Card spot, is certainly not what the Royals needed with 18 games left in the regular season.
Kansas City dropped to four games back, while Cleveland is 1 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the second Wild Card spot. The Royals will have five more chances to beat the Indians, who own a 9-5 edge in the season series and have won four in a row and seven of the past nine meetings.
Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie will try to help the Royals even the series on Tuesday night. He'll be opposed by right-hander Zach McAllister.
Guthrie has a career-high 13 wins this season with a 4.19 ERA.
In his last start against the Mariners on Thursday, Guthrie gave up five runs in the first four innings, including a three-run homer, but grinded through the next two frames for his 26th start of six innings or more. He took a no-decision in the Royals' 13-inning, 7-6 victory, but manager Ned Yost said his pitcher's determination was important to the team's success.
"The key to this ballgame was Guthrie had a scoreless fifth and sixth inning without his best stuff to allow us to get to our closer in the ninth inning with the lead," Yost said. "That was huge."
McAllister also took a no-decision in his last start against Baltimore on Wednesday. He cruised until the fourth inning, but gave up a solo home run to Adam Jones with one out. In the fifth, Manny Machado erased the lead with a three-run homer. He'll be pitching with five days' rest.
Royals: Dyson making mark on the basepaths
Even though he's played just 73 games, Jarrod Dyson has already matched last season's stolen base total with 30. He's the first Royals player to notch 30 steals in consecutive seasons since Carlos Beltran (2001-03).
"It's big, but I'm shooting for higher than 30," Dyson said. "Thirty is just like a decent job for me on the bases. It's pretty good, because I don't have that many ABs, to be sitting at 30 right now. I'm just going to continue to take off and run."
Dyson leads the Royals in stolen bases and the team leads the Major Leagues with 134. They've been caught just 29 times for an 82.2 percent success rate.
Indians: Ramirez gets first hit, first run
Infielder Jose Ramirez wasted little time in collecting his first Major League hit with a leadoff single to left-center field in the third inning of Monday night's series opener. He went 2-for-3 in his first MLB start, hustling on the bases to score on Drew Stubbs' groundout in the third inning.
Ramirez, who is ranked as the Indians' No. 13 prospect by MLB.com, was recalled from Double-A Akron as part of the September callups without ever playing in Triple-A.
"I think when you talk to all the player development guys, they thought he could handle it," Tribe manager Terry Francona said. "You can probably take the safe route, maybe get a veteran. But I think we all thought this kid can do it."
In 113 games with Akron, Ramirez batted .272 with three home runs, 16 doubles, six triples and 38 RBIs. He also had 38 stolen bases.
• Royals second baseman Chris Getz entered as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning on Monday night -- his first appearance since exiting last Tuesday's game with dizziness and an upset stomach.
• At 77-66, the Indians are on pace to finish above .500 for the first time since winning the AL Central title in 2007.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.