The Cleveland Indians are one win away from becoming the latest Central Division team to end a long drought without a sweep at Yankee Stadium.
The Indians look to complete their first three-game sweep in the Bronx in 19 years on Thursday afternoon when they meet the Yankees.
Cleveland (16-17) hasn’t swept three games at Yankee Stadium since April 7-9, 1989. The Indians have won five straight on the road overall and are 4-2 against the Yankees (17-18) this year.
New York has dropped five straight against teams from the Central after being swept by Detroit in a three-game home series last week. The Tigers hadn’t taken all three games in a series in New York since 1966.
Cleveland has used outstanding pitching to shut down New York this year, posting a 2.67 ERA in six meetings. It got another terrific effort from major league ERA leader Cliff Lee in a 3-0 win on Wednesday.
Lee allowed six hits, struck out seven and walked none in seven stellar innings. He lowered his ERA from 0.96 to 0.81.
Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt each pitched one inning to complete the combined seven-hitter and continue Cleveland’s bullpen dominance of New York. Indians relievers have allowed one run and 10 hits in 17 2-3 innings against the Yankees in 2008.
The Yankees haven’t scored in 14 straight innings after losing 5-3 on Tuesday.
“That’s two straight days our offense has been pitiful,” said New York leadoff hitter Johnny Damon, who is 0-for-9 in this series.
Cleveland All-Star catcher Victor Martinez served as the designated hitter after he was scratched from Tuesday night’s game with a stiff neck, but went 0-for-3 as his 15-game hitting streak ended. Martinez batted .344 (21-for-61) during his streak.
AL batting leader Hideki Matsui extended his hitting streak for the Yankees to 16 games with a single in four at-bats. He’s batting .339 for the season.
Cleveland’s Paul Byrd (1-2, 3.74) will pitch at Yankee Stadium for the first time since ending New York’s season by winning Game 4 of last year’s division series. He allowed two runs over five-plus innings in a 6-4 victory in that contest.
That was the first win in the Bronx for the veteran right-hander, who is 0-2 with a 3.46 ERA in four regular-season starts at Yankee Stadium.
Byrd already owns a win over New York this season, giving up four runs over 5 2-3 innings on April 25 in a 6-4 home victory. He pitched even better last Thursday, yielding four hits over 7 2-3 scoreless innings in a 3-2, 11-inning win over Seattle.
Yankees star Derek Jeter is 11-for-30 (.367) in his career against Byrd, not including three hits in six at-bats in two postseason games.
Mike Mussina (4-3, 4.23), meanwhile, looks for his fourth straight victory for New York. After going 1-3 with a 5.75 ERA in his first four starts of 2008, Mussina has a 2.50 ERA in winning his last three outings.
The 39-year-old right-hander turned in one of his best efforts of the season Saturday when he allowed one run and scattered seven hits over six innings in a 6-1 victory over Seattle.
Mussina’s second win of his streak was at Cleveland on April 28 when he gave up two runs over five innings in a 5-2 victory. He’s won three straight starts against the Indians - all on the road.
Martinez is 3-for-21 (.143) in his career against Mussina.