The Cleveland Indians once again have company at the top of the AL Central. They’ll turn to their ace to try and avoid losing any more ground.
C.C. Sabathia tries to prevent the Indians from falling out of first place for the first time in nearly four weeks when he takes the mound in Wednesday’s series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Cleveland (41-29) won Monday’s series opener 10-1, but the Phillies (37-34) evened the three-game set with a 9-6 victory on Tuesday.
The Indians have lost six of their last 10 games to fall into a first-place tie with Detroit in the AL Central. They have not been out of the top spot since May 24, when they trailed the Tigers by one-half game.
Sabathia (9-2, 3.19 ERA) has been instrumental in his team’s success this season, as Cleveland is 12-3 in his starts. However, the Indians’ opening day starter is coming off a disappointing loss.
After allowing eight hits in 18 shutout innings over his previous two starts, Sabathia gave up a season-high 12 hits and five runs in 8 1-3 innings of a 5-4 defeat to Atlanta on Friday. He allowed the Braves to score twice in the ninth to win the game.
“Tonight’s all on my shoulders,” Sabathia said. “I take all the blame. I’m disappointed.”
The loss was the Indians’ first at Jacobs Field with Sabathia on the mound all season, after winning his first eight home starts. The left-hander’s only other loss came on May 11 at Oakland. He has not lost consecutive starts since Sept. 16 and 21 of last season.
In his only career start against Philadelphia, Sabathia allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-1 loss on June 10, 2002.
Cleveland first baseman Ryan Garko broke out of his slump on Tuesday by going 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs. Garko had been 2-for-41 (.049) in his previous 15 games.
Reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard continued to torment the AL on Tuesday, going 3-for-5 with four RBIs as he homered in his second straight game. Six of his 16 homers this season have come in 11 games against the AL.
“So far, it’s been pretty nice,” he said of his two games in Cleveland. “It looks like a big ballpark, but the ball carries a little bit better, especially when you get it toward the lines.”
The Phillies, who improved to 8-6 in interleague play, hope to get a rare win with Jon Lieber (3-5, 4.21) on the hill in Wednesday’s series finale. Philadelphia is only 3-10 in his starts.
Lieber has lost three of his last four outings. The right-hander was terrible Friday, getting tagged for a season-high seven runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 12-8 loss to Detroit.
Lieber has not faced the Indians since 2004, with the New York Yankees, and is 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA in three career starts against them.