The Cleveland Indians are playing their best baseball of the season, but may be missing one of their top players as they try to keep rolling Saturday.
Cleveland beat the Rangers 7-2 on Friday for its fourth straight win and 17th in 22 games. The victory, however, was overshadowed by Hafner’s departure in the eighth inning after getting hit on the hand by a pitch from Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson.
Hafner is listed as day-to-day, but X-rays were negative as the Indians slugger avoided a major injury.
“We’ll see how he feels (Saturday),” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “We were all worried that it might be broken. He was pretty upset.”
Hafner had an ugly bruise after getting hit with the bases loaded, giving him his 110th RBI of the season as a DH to break the club record of 109 at that position set by Andre Thornton in 1982.
Hafner is batting .308 and leads the team in home runs (42) and RBIs (117).
“You hate to say you rely on one guy,” said Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore, who went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a homer and two RBIs on Friday. “But he’s definitely a guy we need in the lineup. He’s a consistent spark and a guy we lean on.”
Sizemore has provided the spark against the Rangers this season, batting .438 (7-for-16) in four games. He will try to help the Indians record their first series win in Arlington since they took two of three May 9-11, 2003.
Cliff Lee (10-10, 4.72 ERA) will try to avoid losing his third straight start when he takes the ball for Cleveland. The left-hander allowed five runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings in a 7-1 loss to Detroit on Sunday.
“We had a chance to sweep the Tigers and the reason we didn’t is me,” said Lee, who has given up a team-high 25 homers this season. “It’s hard to win when you’re giving up a run almost every inning.”
Lee, whose career-best 18 wins last season were the most by a Cleveland left-hander since 1988, has one win in his last eight starts with a 4.82 ERA. Opponents are hitting .311 against him during that span.
He is 2-1 with a 7.04 ERA in three career starts against the Rangers, and will be facing them for the first time this season.
Texas will counter with Edinson Volquez (1-3, 4.58), who will be trying to avoid a third consecutive defeat. The right-hander gave up three runs and seven hits over four innings of a 9-3 loss to Oakland on Aug. 25.
Volquez has failed to pitch more than five innings in three of his four starts this season. He has never faced Cleveland.
The teams have split four meetings this season.