An offensive outburst helped the Cleveland Indians snap their longest losing streak of the season.
The Indians look to build off an impressive win while trying to keep pace for the AL Central lead when they conclude their road series with the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
Cleveland (52-35) beat Toronto 9-4 on Saturday to even the weekend set. The Indians also halted a three-game skid that began when they dropped the final two games of their series at Detroit earlier this week.
Cleveland, which continues to battle the surging Tigers for the division lead, held a three-game lead over Detroit after winning the opener of that series. The race, though, has tightened as the Indians have dropped three of four after a six-game winning streak.
On Saturday, the Indians hit four home runs and scored all their runs in the first five innings after totaling 13 during their losing streak. Casey Blake went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer and is 5-for-9 with two homers and five RBIs in the series.
“Between last year and this year, one thing is he’s become much more comfortable with his hitting in runners in scoring position, not trying to do too much,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said of Blake, who already has 14 homers in 85 games after hitting 19 in 109 last year.
Victor Martinez hopes to be back behind the plate for Cleveland after leaving Saturday’s game with a bruised left knee. Martinez, one of three Indians slated to take part in Tuesday’s All-Star game, went 2-for-3 with a homer and is batting .404 (19-for-47) during a 12-game hitting streak.
Paul Byrd (7-3, 4.71 ERA) will take the mound for the Indians in the series finale. Byrd allowed four runs and seven hits in seven innings and yielded his first unintentional walk in 77 2-3 innings, but didn’t factor in Cleveland’s 5-4 win in 11 innings on Tuesday in Detroit.
The right-hander is 3-2 with a 3.55 ERA in five starts against the Blue Jays, but 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA in two starts at Rogers Centre.
Toronto (42-44), which has won three of five since losing four in a row, counters with Josh Towers (4-5, 5.71). He will be looking to win three consecutive starts for the first time since 2005.
Towers allowed four runs and five hits in five innings of an 11-7 win at Oakland on Monday for his first back-to-back winning decisions since August 2005. The Blue Jays have given the right-hander 16 runs of support and have won each of his last three starts.
“That’s what feels really good,” said Towers, who posted four straight winning decisions earlier in 2005 en route to a career-high 13 victories. “We weren’t winning any of my starts last year or earlier this year.”
He allowed three earned runs in 2 1-3 innings of relief in Toronto’s 7-6 loss in 11 innings to the Indians on May 2. He’s 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA in five games - three starts - against Cleveland.