By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- The Cleveland Indians are slugging it out at the plate, and on the verge of sweeping their first road series of 2012.
Another strong effort from the offense may be what Ubaldo Jimenez needs to get his first victory.
Jimenez returns from suspension Sunday looking for some support from the Indians as they try to complete a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals.
Cleveland (3-4) hit a paltry .176 during a 1-4 season-opening homestand, but the lineup has shown some dramatic improvement in Kansas City (3-5). The Indians are hitting .313 in this series, collecting 11 hits in an 8-3 win Friday before pounding out 14 during Saturday's 11-9, 10-inning victory.
Shin-Soo Choo came up with the clutch hit Saturday, connecting for a two-out, two-run double in the 10th after the Royals had rallied from a seven-run, fifth-inning deficit. Choo got the last laugh after he was hit by a pitch in the third, causing the benches and bullpens to spill out onto the field for the first of two times in the inning.
"'What a crazy kind of emotional game," said Indians manager Manny Acta, who was among those thrown out during the eventful third. "Just glad we came out on top."
Acta will now give the ball to Jimenez, who returns from a five-game suspension for hitting Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki with a pitch during spring training.
The right-hander was outstanding in his season debut April 7, carrying a no-hit bid into the seventh before giving up a two-run single in the Indians' eventual 7-4, 12-inning loss to Toronto.
"(Ubaldo) definitely pitched good enough to win," second baseman Jason Kipnis told the Indians' official website. "He looked a little bit more determined - a little bit more ready - than we might've seen in spring. That was good to see. He kind of came out on fire and just kind of stayed that way."
Jimenez didn't need much help from his teammates in his only career meeting with the Royals on Aug. 26. He yielded one run in seven innings of a 2-1 victory, striking out 10.
He surely wouldn't mind more support from the offense, and Carlos Santana may give it to him. Cleveland's catcher has three hits in this series, including a double, a single and two RBIs on Saturday. Santana owns a .316 average with eight RBIs and 13 walks in 11 career games in Kansas City.
The Indians have won 11 of their last 15 at Kauffman Stadium, averaging 7.2 runs in those contests.
The Royals are looking to avoid the sweep and ending a three-game skid, which has included a bloated 10.80 ERA from the starting rotation.
Luis Mendoza will take the mound for Kansas City. The right-hander battled through 5 2-3 innings in his season debut Monday, allowing one run, five hits and four walks. He got charged with a 1-0 loss to Oakland, as the Royals offense managed just three hits.
Mendoza posted a major league-best 0.47 ERA in spring training.
Royals designated hitter Billy Butler is 7 for 18 with four doubles, one homer and four RBIs in his last four games. He had two hits and two RBIs in Saturday's defeat.
Updated April 15, 2012