The Cleveland Indians’ slumping offense appears to have returned to form.
After halting their second three-game losing streak of the season, the Indians go for back-to-back wins as they close out their 10-game road trip Sunday with the finale of a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics.
Cleveland (21-13) ranks fourth in the majors with 5.24 runs per game, but got outscored 19-4 in losing three straight games this week, including its first shutout of 2007 - an 8-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday.
The Indians batted only .214 during the skid.
They bounced back Saturday, amassing 11 hits in a 6-3 win over Oakland (18-17). Although leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore went 0-for-5 and is just 3-for-20 in his last five games, the bottom three spots in the lineup - Casey Blake, Josh Barfield and Franklin Gutierrez - combined for five hits, three runs scored and four RBIs.
“We’re not where we need to be … but this is how it starts,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, whose team is batting .301 in its last 11 meetings with Oakland. “That’s what everybody needs to recognize. It’s not fireworks results. It’s how you grind through at-bats and keep innings going.”
The Indians might not need fireworks on Sunday if Cliff Lee (1-0, 3.60 ERA) can duplicate his past success against Oakland. The left-hander is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in four career starts against the Athletics.
On Tuesday - the final game before the three-game losing streak - Lee pitched a complete-game three-hitter to lead the Indians to a 5-1 win over the Angels. It was just his second start of the season after spending April on the disabled list due to an abdominal strain.
For the A’s, their three-run, six-hit performance on Saturday was a step back from their previous two games, in which they combined for 25 runs and 32 hits for back-to-back victories.
However, Jack Cust continued his hot hitting with his fifth homer in six games. The left-handed designated hitter, who was acquired from San Diego earlier this month and recalled from the minors May 4, is 7-for-22 (.318) with 11 RBIs.
“That’s a good sign when he can take it the opposite way,” manager Bob Geren told the team’s official Web site. “It means he’s harder to scout.”
The Athletics fell to 7-8 at home, and 1-1 on their current 10-game homestand. Oakland is batting only .215 at McAfee Coliseum this season, compared with .269 in road games.
Chad Gaudin (2-1, 2.40) will take the mound for the A’s in search of wins in consecutive starts for the first time in his five-year career. Gaudin, primarily a reliever until this season, held Kansas City to one run and five hits in a career-high eight innings as the Athletics took a 6-1 win on Tuesday.
The right-hander defeated Cleveland in consecutive relief appearances on Sept. 19 and Sept. 21 last season, despite allowing two runs and three hits with three walks over 2 1-3 innings.
Gaudin has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all seven of his starts in 2007.
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