The Cleveland Indians have mustered little offense in losing three of their last four games.
They get a good opportunity to change that as they open interleague play with a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Cleveland was two outs away from a win Wednesday, when Darin Erstad had a run-scoring single and Bengie Molina added a sacrifice fly to lift the Los Angeles Angels to a 2-1 victory. Jake Westbrook had allowed just two hits and struck out pinch hitter Juan Rivera to start the ninth before Adam Kennedy began the rally for the Angels with a single on an eight-pitch at-bat.
Westbrook has been a victim of his team’s offensive struggles as Cleveland has managed just 19 runs in his nine starts.
“It’s a tough one,” said Westbrook. “It’s kind of frustrating. I was hitting my spots and I felt strong, even in the ninth. It’s just one of those things.”
The Indians had just four hits Wednesday, including an RBI double by Jody Gerut in the fourth. Gerut was making his season debut after being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo when fellow outfielder Coco Crisp was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right thumb. Gerut hadn’t played in the majors since tearing a knee ligament in Cleveland on Sept. 17.
“It felt good to be out there again,” Gerut said. “A lot of fans were saying, ‘Welcome back.’ It’s good to feel a little of that again.”
The Indians have scored just four runs in their last three losses and are 3-16 when scoring three runs or less.
The Reds have been unable to keep opponents from scoring, having given up 25 runs on their current four-game losing streak.
Former Indian Sean Casey went 5-for-5 with a home run, a double and four RBIs and Ken Griffey Jr. hit a two-run homer for the Reds in a 10-6 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday. Cincinnati made four errors, its most since April 27, 2004, and gave up three homers in losing for the sixth time in eight games.
“It was pretty much an embarrassing game, an embarrassing series,” Casey said. “It’s getting old, losing like this. It’s not only one facet of the game, we’re really scuffling in all the phases right now.”
Closer Danny Graves, who hadn’t pitched since last Thursday, gave up two homers in the eighth when New York scored four times to take a 10-3 lead. The Reds have allowed a home run in 17 straight games, matching the team record set from June 5-23, 2001.
“Ugly. Embarrassing. You don’t have the keys on your computer or typewriter to say what I want to say,” said Reds manager Dave Miley, who was ejected for arguing a close call at first base in the fifth. “That’s all I have for you.”
STANDINGS (through May 18): Indians - 4th place, 11 GB, AL Central. Reds - 6th place, 11 1/2 GB, NL Central.
INDIANS PROBABLE STARTER: Kevin Millwood (1-3, 3.54 ERA). Millwood is 5-3 with a 4.67 ERA lifetime against Cincinnati. The right-hander has allowed just five earned runs and 17 hits over 16 innings in three starts this month. Cleveland has scored just 28 runs in his eight outings.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Aaron Harang (2-2, 3.61 ERA). Harang has gone eight innings in each of his last two starts, allowing a total of five earned runs and 12 hits with four walks and 12 strikeouts. He’s 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two career starts against Cleveland.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Indians - Crisp, .283 avg., 24 runs and 6 SBs; Johnny Peralta, Ron Belliard and Casey Blake, 6 HRs; Travis Hafner, 18 RBIs. Reds - Ryan Freel, .316 avg. and 10 SBs; Adam Dunn, 11 HRs and 25 runs; Griffey, 24 RBIs.
2004 SEASON SERIES: Indians, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Indians - 3B Aaron Boone, facing his former team for the first time, has hit safely in a season-high four straight games to raise his average to .163. … OF Grady Sizemore is batting .339 (21-for-62) in his last 17 games. … The Indians are 70-69 all-time in interleague play. Reds - RHP Paul Wilson, who is 0-3 with a 7.77 ERA, will not make his next scheduled start as RHP Ramon Ortiz will pitch Sunday. … RHP Graves has allowed four homers and walked 11 while striking out just five in 16 2-3 innings this season. … The Reds are 48-61 all-time in interleague games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Indians - 11-11 on the road; Reds - 9-10 at home.
INJURIES: Indians - OF Crisp (elbow), 15-day DL; OF Juan Gonzalez (hamstring), 15-day DL; LHP Jason Stanford (elbow), 60-day DL. Reds - IF Rich Aurilia (hamstring), 15-day DL; IF Anderson Machado (knee), 15-day DL; OF Wily Mo Pena (thigh), 15-day DL; RHP Josh Hancock (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Hudson (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Ben Weber (neck), 15-day DL; LHP Jung Keun Bong (shoulder), 60-day DL; IF Ray Olmedo (elbow), 60-day DL.