Sabathia takes the mound for the Indians as they continue their four-game home series with the Red Sox, who are seeking their longest winning streak in nearly two months.
After winning five games in a row - the last two against Cleveland - from May 25-29, Boston began a long stretch of mediocre play. From May 30 through Thursday, the Red Sox went 20-24 and saw their lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East shrink from 14 1/2 to seven games.
They scored two runs or fewer in 17 of the 44 games in that span.
Boston, however, seems to be righting itself. After totaling 29 runs while winning the last three games of their home series with the Chicago White Sox, the Red Sox (60-39) opened a seven-game road trip with a 6-2 victory over the Indians (58-41) on Monday night.
A pair of former Cleveland outfielders led Boston offensively. Coco Crisp went 4-for-5 with three runs and Manny Ramirez added two hits and two RBIs to help make a winner of Jon Lester, who threw six solid innings in his first major league start since being diagnosed with cancer 11 months ago.
The Red Sox plated four runs in the top of the first inning - before Lester even took the mound.
“That definitely helps,” Lester said. “That eases any pitcher’s mind getting four in the first. It makes it a little easier to go out there and throw strikes.”
Crisp continued his recent tear. The center fielder, who spent his first four seasons with the Indians from 2002-05, is 10-for-13 over the past three games. He’s batting .402 (47-for-117) in 30 games since June 14.
Crisp had two hits in three at-bats the only time he faced Sabathia (13-4, 3.81 ERA), although the Indians ace pitched eight innings to beat the Red Sox 6-3 in that contest Aug. 3 at Fenway Park. In his career, the left-hander is 2-3 with a 4.35 ERA in six starts versus Boston.
Sabathia is tied with Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett for the major league lead in wins, but he hasn’t pitched well recently, going 1-2 with an 8.47 ERA in three starts in July.
He earned his first victory of the month at Texas on Thursday despite squandering a four-run lead and giving up four runs - three earned - and nine hits in six innings.
“I give credit to all these guys. They did the work,” Sabathia said of his teammates. “I kind of kept us above water and then just tried to make sure we stayed in there. These guys definitely deserve all the credit for this one.”
Like Sabathia, Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-7, 3.99) is trying to work out of a rough patch in his season. After a stretch of six consecutive outings in which he yielded two runs or fewer, the Japanese rookie right-hander is 1-2 with a 7.31 ERA in his last three starts, failing to last longer than six innings in any of them.
On Thursday against Chicago, Matsuzaka walked a season-high six in five innings, allowing three runs and two hits as the Red Sox fell 4-2.
He also fared poorly in his May 30 start against Cleveland, suffering an 8-4 loss after giving up six runs and a season-high 12 hits in 5 2-3 innings.
The Indians, 7-9 since July 4, fell two games behind Detroit for the AL Central lead with Monday’s defeat.
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