Sabathia, the Indians’ 22-year-old staff ace, went winless in his first six starts this season, tying the longest drought of his career. Making matters worse, Cleveland lost all six of those games.
But Sabathia has gone 6-1 with a 3.18 ERA over his last eight outings, including Tuesday’s 7-4 victory over Detroit. The seven runs, aided by three homers, matched the most offensive support Sabathia has received this year.
“The homers gave me a big lift,” the burly left-hander said. “When we score runs like that, I want to come out and shut the other team down, and I did a pretty good job of that.”
Sabathia allowed three runs—two earned—and six hits over six innings, striking out six and walking two. The start also served as a microcosm of Sabathia’s season. He allowed two runs in the first inning before shutting the Tigers down.
“C.C. obviously got into some trouble there in the first,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “But he did a great job of coming back. You’ve got to love the fact that he turned the page and came back to take control of the game.”
The Indians lost for the sixth time in nine games with Saturday’s 7-6 setback to the Pirates in the second 15-inning game between the teams in as many days. The only victories for the Tribe during the stretch came in a three-game sweep of the major league-worst Detroit Tigers.
It was the second straight night the Pirates, who trailed 3-0 and 5-1, rallied from at least three runs down. They were behind 3-0 Friday before winning 5-4 on Randall Simon’s 15th-inning homer.
“To play 15 innings on back-to-back days, that’s pretty unbelievable,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. “To win both of those games makes it even more unbelievable. I’m pretty much numb right now. The last two nights have been a blur.”
STANDINGS: Indians - 4th place, 9 1/2 GB, AL Central. Pirates - 5th place, 7 1/2 GB, NL Central.
INDIANS PROBABLE STARTER: Sabathia (6-3, 3.44 ERA). Sabathia did not receive a decision in his lone career start against Pittsburgh, allowing just one hit over seven scoreless innings of the Indians’ 1-0 loss on June 17, 2001.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Ryan Vogelsong (0-0, 0.00 ERA). Vogelsong, who was promoted from Triple-A Nashville on June 13, makes a spot start for the Pirates, who were in need of an extra arm after playing a doubleheader Wednesday. The 25-year-old right-hander, who hasn’t started a big league game since tearing a ligament in his throwing elbow in 2001, was 7-5 with a 5.06 ERA in 13 starts with the Sounds. He is making his first career appearances against Cleveland.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Indians - Milton Bradley, .350 avg. and 12 SBs; Matt Lawton, 8 HRs and 33 RBIs; Omar Vizquel, 40 runs. Pirates - Aramis Ramirez, .296 avg. and 43 RBIs; Reggie Sanders, 10 HRs; Kenny Lofton, 45 runs and 14 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Indians - 3-11; Pirates - 5-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Indians - The Indians are 1-7 in extra innings this year. The Pirates are 3-3. … OF Bradley went 3-for-6 Saturday and has reached base safely in 56 of his last 57 games, including 25 straight. … DH Ellis Burks will have season-ending right elbow surgery Monday in Cleveland. Burks has been out since June 10. Pirates - OF Brian Giles has reached base in 30 consecutive games. … The Pirates have played 57 innings at home in four days, starting with Wednesday’s doubleheader against Montreal. … 1B Simon went on the disabled list Saturday with torn ligaments in his right hand.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Indians - 13-25 on the road; Pirates - 13-22 at home.
INJURIES: Indians - INF Vizquel (knee), 15-day DL; OF Burks (elbow), 15-day DL; OF Karim Garcia (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Ricardo Rodriguez (triceps), 15-day DL; RHP Jason Bere (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Dave Elder (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Bob Wickman (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Mark Wohlers (elbow), 60-day DL; INF Ricky Gutierrez (neck), 60-day DL. Pirates - 1B Simon (hand), 15-day DL; INF Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; INF Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL; RHP Mike Lincoln (shoulder), 60-day DL.