Sabathia (14-6, 3.43 ERA) has a 2.11 ERA in his last six starts, but is only 1-2 in that span, which began with a 1-0 loss to Boston on July 24. The left-hander has received just eight runs of support in five of the outings - all losses for AL Central-leading Cleveland (70-56).
His lone victory during that stretch came on Aug. 3, when he allowed two runs and eight hits in six innings of a 5-2 win at Minnesota.
Sabathia, who has fanned 41 batters in 42 2-3 innings in his last six starts, had another strong outing Sunday, giving up two runs and five hits with six strikeouts in a 4-3, 12-inning loss at Tampa Bay.
“I just go out and keep trying to keep us in games,” said Sabathia, who has not recorded a decision in three consecutive starts despite allowing only two runs in each contest. “I’m not really concerned about myself or my record. I just want this team to win ballgames. I just want to pitch in the playoffs.”
While Sabathia eyes that opportunity, he has a chance to help Cleveland extend its 2 1/2-game lead over second-place Detroit. The Indians beat the Tigers 3-1 in 10 innings on Thursday, giving them back-to-back wins after opening the series with a 2-1 loss on Tuesday.
“These types of series really test you,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “I’m really pleased with the way our guys competed.”
Sabathia is looking to rebound from his last start against Kansas City (56-70) on July 14, when he was tagged for six runs and 11 hits in seven innings of a 6-5 home loss.
At Kauffman Stadium, the Indians have won only three of their last 11 games with Sabathia getting one of those victories on Aug. 24, 2006.
The Royals beat the White Sox 7-6 in Chicago on Wednesday to salvage a win in the teams’ three-game series.
Zack Greinke (5-5, 4.40) hopes to help Kansas City build on that victory in his return to the rotation after spending over three months in the bullpen. The 23-year-old right-hander struggled during a seven-start stint to begin the season, going 1-4 with a 5.71 ERA while focusing on control instead of power.
“I’m probably going to try to throw just about as hard as I can on every pitch the whole game,” Greinke told the team’s official Web site. “So if I ever do dial it up, it’ll just be juices flowing more. I won’t be dialing up any more than I was on the pitches before.
“Your whole life, people tell you how important control is and stuff like that. I might have taken it a little too serious. I’m not saying I’m definitely going to do good at starting now; it’s just that I’ll have a different approach this time.”
Greinke used that philosophy as a reliever, compiling a 4-1 mark and a 3.54 ERA with one save in 38 appearances. He has struggled coming out of the bullpen against Cleveland, though, going 1-1 with a 11.25 ERA in five contests this season.
Greinke has fared better against the Indians as a starter, going 2-4 with a 4.08 ERA in eight games.
Royals left fielder Emil Brown, who went 5-for-10 in the three games against his hometown White Sox, is hitting .323 (10-for-31) against Sabathia. He went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs against the three-time All-Star on July 14.