The Cleveland Indians’ pitching is under the spotlight, and not in a good way.
The Indians (17-18) try to get a better effort on the mound when they open a three-game series with the AL Central rival Detroit Tigers (21-13) on Friday.
Cleveland’s 5.49 ERA is tied for third-worst in the major leagues, and that inconsistency has the Indians on their fourth three-game losing streak of the season. The Indians allowed 38 hits and 24 runs in three consecutive defeats to Kansas City this week, getting swept for the first time by the Royals since May 9-12, 2002.
The recent pitching woes have the attention of Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, who vowed change will come soon.
“I’m both disappointed and concerned, not just in light of the last three games,” Shapiro said. “We are considering changes to roles and personnel in the bullpen. The mix we have there is not working.”
Left-hander Cliff Lee (2-3, 3.64 ERA), one of the few pitchers Shapiro praised, will start for the Indians on Friday. Lee has lost his last two starts, including a 4-1 defeat to Seattle on Saturday in which he allowed four runs and seven hits over 6 2-3 innings.
Lee’s longest start of the season came in a 1-0 loss at Detroit on April 16, when he gave up five hits over 7 1-3 innings while striking out six. He is 3-2 with a 4.47 ERA in nine starts against the Tigers.
Detroit will also start a left-hander in Kenny Rogers (5-2, 3.28), who had his Thursday outing against Baltimore pushed back after the game was postponed due to rain.
The 41-year-old Rogers, who will try to win his third consecutive start, allowed five runs and eight hits over five innings in a 9-6 victory at Minnesota last Friday.
Rogers is 14-14 with a 5.14 ERA in 50 appearances against the Indians, including wins in five of his last six starts. He allowed one run and seven hits over eight innings in a 5-1 victory over Cleveland on April 14.
Rogers leads a Detroit pitching staff that owns an AL-best 3.40 ERA. The Tigers’ lineup is doing its part as well, recording 10 or more hits in four of its last five games.
Magglio Ordonez extended his hitting streak to five games by going 2-for-4 in Wednesday’s 6-3 victory over Baltimore as the Tigers snapped a three-game skid. Ordonez is 7-for-14 against Lee, while Tigers designated hitter Dmitri Young is 5-for-12.
Detroit may not have Young in the lineup Friday, however, as manager Jim Leyland is considering putting him on the disabled list with a strained right quadriceps. The same injury put Young on the DL in mid-April.
“It’s lingering. It’s not nearly as bad as it was; it’s not like we’re starting from scratch. But it spasms up on him,” Leyland said. “It’s not right, and you can see that. He’s uncomfortable at the plate.
“It’s a long season and we need to get him right. He’s a professional hitter, he hits left-handed, and I need him bad. But it’s not fair to ask him to hit right now.”
These two teams split their four-game series from April 14-17 in Detroit, but the Indians held the edge in runs (18-10) and hits (36-27). Cleveland won the season series 12-6 last year, but went just 4-5 at home.