The Indians and Royals were both in the thick of the hunt for the American League Wild Card Game in last season's second half. Kansas City tormented Cleveland some in September, but the Tribe ultimately prevailed in its push to the postseason.
The Royals, meanwhile, have missed the party for 28 years running.
Beginning Monday, the Indians and Royals will clash for the first time in 2014 in a four-game series at Progressive Field. There are still more than five months to go, but both teams have aspirations of doing enough damage in divisional play to reach the playoffs.
"We're not really clicking on all cylinders," Indians outfielder David Murphy said. "We know we're going to at some point. We have that sense of urgency to get to the point where we're clicking on all cylinders. A day like [Sunday] is one of those days that can get you rolling."
On Sunday the Indians took down the Blue Jays for just their third win in a 10-game span.
Cleveland was not exactly the Royals' favorite port of call last season. They were 3-6 at Progressive Field, which led to a 9-10 overall record against the Indians, their only losing mark against an American League Central opponent.
The most stinging defeats came when the Tribe executed a three-game sweep in Cleveland in the final series before the All-Star break. If the Royals had swept the series, they'd have reached the .500 mark at the break. Instead they were six games under.
"We got swept," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "And I believe the second half, we played them well, but there was just too much ground to make up."
The Royals didn't play the Tribe again until September, when they won four of six games as both clubs sought a Wild Card berth. The Indians made it; the Royals fell short.
"Any time you're playing a division game, it's key," Hosmer said. "Because you look at last year, and our schedule was pretty tough at the end and their schedule wasn't as tough as ours, and they really made up a lot of games on us because of that, I think."
The Royals begin the series behind Jeremy Guthrie, a first-round Draft choice of the Indians in 2002 who spent parts of three seasons in Cleveland. Guthrie has been hot in April, winning six straight decisions in the month, including two this season.
Cleveland will counter with right-hander Zach McAllister, who has been its steadiest arm of late. On Wednesday he led the charge against the rival Tigers, allowing one run on four hits in six innings. Over his past two trips up the hill, he has yielded only one run over 13 2/3 innings, with 11 strikeouts and two walks.
"He looks good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He should feel good about himself. He's throwing the ball really well. He got back to where he's throwing that fastball down, and it works for him. His fastball is his best pitch, and he knows it. When he locates it, he's really good."
Royals: Dyson set to return
There's been a rapid changeover in center field for the Royals recently. Lorenzo Cain went on the disabled list with a strained left groin on Wednesday, and Jarrod Dyson took over for two games at Houston. On Friday, Dyson went on bereavement leave because of a death in the family, and the other outfield backup, Justin Maxwell, was in center for the weekend series against Minnesota.
With Dyson scheduled to rejoin the Royals on Monday, will it be him or Maxwell starting in center?
"I don't know. We'll play it by ear," manager Ned Yost said.
Indians: Big G coming back
Francona indicated on Sunday that Cleveland plans on going forward with activating veteran Jason Giambi from the 15-day disabled list prior to Monday's game. The 43-year-old Giambi suffered a non-displaced fracture of a rib in his right side on March 8, but has recovered and will rejoin the Tribe as a part-time designated hitter, pinch-hitter and clubhouse presence.
Giambi went 0-for-8 with two walks in three games of a Minor League rehab assignment with Double-A Akron.
"Every manager should have the luxury of having 'G' once," Francona said. "Unfortunately, no other manager is going to, because he's going to stick with us. But he gets it. I've been fortunate. I've been around a lot of good players, but man, he gets it. He just wants to help."
• Murphy's three-run double in the sixth inning against the Blue Jays on Sunday snapped an 0-for-15 slump with runners in scoring position for the Indians. Cleveland has hit .149 in such situations over the past six contests.
• The Indians had an identical 8-10 record through 18 games last season. They then dropped three in a row before an 18-4 stretch that pushed them to a 26-17 record.
• Since 1969, the Royals are 138-169 in Cleveland, including 65-95 at Progressive Field. They last swept a four-game series in Cleveland in 1973.