The Cleveland Indians own the best divisional record of any team in the majors, but have yet to take a series from the worst team in the AL Central.
The Indians look to avenge their only series defeat to a divisional opponent as they open a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday at Jacobs Field.
Cleveland (34-21) is 15-6 against the AL Central this season, averaging 6.5 runs and batting .290 during those contests. Thanks to that type of play, the Indians lead the division by 2 1/2 games over the Detroit Tigers.
After winning the first two games of their recent series with the Tigers, the Indians dropped the final two, including a 9-2 defeat in Sunday’s finale. Victor Martinez’s two-run homer was the only offense for Cleveland, which is now trying to avoid its first three-game skid since May 9-11.
Cleveland lost two of three games to the Royals May 22-24, which was its only series defeat to an AL Central opponent. The Indians will hand the ball to staff ace C.C. Sabathia (8-1, 3.78 ERA), who realizes the importance of these matchups.
“That’s going to be the key,” he told the Indians’ official Web site. “Every game in the division is going to be a big game.”
Sabathia is trying to join Los Angeles Angels pitcher John Lackey as the only nine-game winners in the majors. The left-hander is coming off one of his rougher outings of the season, though, allowing five runs and 10 hits over 7 1-3 innings in an 11-5 win over Detroit on Thursday.
The Indians, who are coming off their first off-day in three weeks, have scored six or more runs of support in six of Sabathia’s last eight starts. He is 11-6 with a 3.34 ERA in 23 career starts versus the Royals—his most appearances versus any opponent.
The veteran is 5-0 with a 3.23 ERA in seven home starts for the Indians, who are 19-6 at Jacobs Field. They’ll host a Kansas City squad that has dropped nine of its last 11 contests, including the final two of a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to split the set.
Catcher John Buck, who is batting .288, homered twice in a 4-2 defeat in Monday’s finale. The Royals (21-37) totaled 13 runs and 23 hits in the first two games of the series, but just three runs and 11 hits in the last two.
Jorge De La Rosa (4-5, 4.97) hopes the offense can get back on track as he tries to avoid losing his third straight start for Kansas City. The left-hander has given up 14 runs through 9 1-3 innings in back-to-back defeats, the first of which was a 10-3 loss to the Indians on May 24, when he allowed a season-high nine runs over 4 1-3 innings.
De La Rosa is 1-1 with a 10.13 ERA in four career starts versus Cleveland— his third-worst ERA versus any opponent. In his most recent start last Tuesday, the southpaw gave up five runs over five innings in a 6-2 loss to Baltimore.
“My control was better (than in my last start), but there were a lot of mistakes in there,” De La Rosa told the Royals’ official Web site.
The Royals have won their last two games in Cleveland following an 11-game skid there.