After two tough losses, the Cleveland Indians are probably happy knowing they will have their ace on the mound Saturday.
Sabathia (16-7, 3.24 ERA) is trying to join New York’s Chien-Ming Wang and Boston’s Josh Beckett for the major league lead in wins. He outpitched reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana with eight strong innings against the Minnesota Twins on Monday, allowing six hits while striking out six in the 5-0 victory.
A win Saturday would tie his career high, set in his rookie season in 2001— the last time Cleveland made the postseason. Sabathia already is the first Indians’ pitcher in 50 years to reach double digits in wins for seven consecutive seasons. He leads the AL in innings pitched (211) and is fourth in strikeouts (182).
“(Sabathia’s) a great competitor,” manager Eric Wedge told the Indians’ official Web site. “He works so hard to keep himself in control out there. He makes his emotions work for him.”
The left-hander is just 3-3 in his last nine starts despite a 1.95 ERA. Cleveland has averaged just 2.6 runs of support for him in that stretch.
Sabathia takes the mound looking to help lead the Indians their first win in this series. He is 4-5 with a 4.96 ERA in 11 starts against Los Angeles (84-57), and beat the Angels at Miller Park in Milwaukee on April 10, allowing three runs and 10 hits over seven innings in the 7-6 win.
Cleveland has dropped the first two games of this series, losing 3-2 in 10 innings on Friday after falling 10-3 on Thursday.
Los Angeles designated hitter Kendry Morales drove in the game-winner Friday with an RBI single in the 10th after Chone Figgins led off the inning with a double. Figgins went 3-for-4 and scored all three runs for the Angels in his first start since Aug. 21 after being sidelined with a bruised left wrist.
The Angels led 2-1 in the ninth but closer Francisco Rodriguez blew his sixth save of the season and second in his last three appearances, giving up a leadoff home run to Indians first baseman Ryan Garko.
“Frankie’s got the stuff. It’s just not going his way right now, but he’s definitely going to bounce back,” teammate Scot Shields said. “He’s one of the best in the business for a reason, so he’ll be fine.”
The Angels increased their lead in the AL West to nine games over second-place Seattle after the Mariners lost 6-1 to Detroit on Friday. Cleveland is five games in front of the Tigers in the AL Central.
Los Angeles left fielder Garret Anderson extended his RBI streak to 12 consecutive games, two shy of the AL record set by Tris Speaker in May 1928 with the Philadelphia Athletics. Anderson drove in Figgins with a single in the first inning.
Angels right fielder Vladimir Guerrero missed his second straight game because of inflammation in his right triceps.
Ervin Santana (6-12, 6.07) takes the mound for Angels after snapping a nine-game winless streak Monday. Santana pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits against Oakland in a 9-5 win—his first since June 9 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I never thought about it. There was no pressure,” he said through a translator. “I just thought that, hey, I’m a good pitcher. I’m going through some bad times and I’m not the first one to go through it. Whenever they put me in to pitch, I’m going to pitch. But never did it cross my mind that this was going to be a pressure situation for me.”
Santana is winless in four starts career against the Indians, including 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in two starts against them this year.