The Cleveland Indians are playing their best baseball of the season, and their ace is looking to contribute to that.
Cleveland (14-8) defeated Baltimore 6-1 on Sunday for its seventh win in eight games. The Indians were 2 1/2 games out of first place in the AL Central on April 21, but have since moved atop the division and are 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota.
Cleveland is 5-0 when Sabathia starts this season, but the left-hander has not won since defeating the Chicago White Sox on April 15.
Sabathia (3-0, 3.18 ERA) appeared well on his way to another brilliant outing Wednesday against Texas, but that changed drastically. He gave up just one hit through the first five innings, but allowed five runs and six hits in the sixth. He didn’t factor in the 8-7, 11-inning victory.
“Today, I kind of blew it for us, but the guys ended up picking me up,” Sabathia told the team’s official Web site.
The left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three home starts this season, and 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his last six starts at Jacobs Field. That includes a four-hitter for a 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Aug. 29.
Sabathia is 2-2 with a 4.25 ERA in four home starts against Toronto in his career.
The Indians won all three home games over the Blue Jays last season to improve to 9-1 in their last 10 against them at home.
Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner went 2-for-4 Sunday, and is hitting .107 (3-for-28) at home this season. Hafner, who is batting a team-high .338, was 4-for-9 with three homers against the Jays in Cleveland.
He is 3-for-6 with a double against A.J. Burnett (2-1, 4.18), who’s coming off his best start of the season after giving up four hits in seven innings of a 6-0 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday.
After allowing 11 runs in 14 innings over his first three starts, he has given up just two runs in 14 innings in his last two
Pitching at Jacobs Field, though, has been difficult for Burnett. The right-hander is 0-2 in two career starts in Cleveland, allowing 14 runs with a .449 opponent batting average in 11 1-3 innings.
Burnett is 1-2 with a 7.27 ERA in three career starts against Cleveland.
Toronto (13-12) defeated Texas 6-1 on Monday, and have won five of seven after a season-high five-game skid.
Center fielder Vernon Wells missed his first game of the season Monday because of flulike symptoms. Wells is just 5-for-21 in his career against Sabathia, but has hit two homers.