The Cincinnati Reds had no trouble scoring during a three-game sweep of one of the NL’s division leaders. Welcoming the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians to start interleague play should make producing runs much more difficult.
The Indians will look to their dominant starting pitching - which has led them to four shutout wins in their last six games - in the start of a three-game set with the intrastate rival Reds on Friday at Great American Ball Park.
Cleveland (22-19) was three games under .500 on April 29, and after relying on a top-10 offense last season on its way to the AL Central title, was having plenty of trouble scoring runs.
The Indians are still looking for consistency throughout their lineup in 2008, but they’ve found a way to counter their mediocre hitting—don’t allow the opposition to score.
Cleveland’s rotation entered its game Thursday against Oakland with a streak of 43 1-3 innings without allowing a run, and left with a streak of 50 1-3 without allowing an earned run. Aaron Laffey gave up one unearned run in seven innings as the Indians rolled to a 4-2 win.
“When you talk about five guys—to do it day in and day out it’s impressive,” Laffey said. “It’s just been an incredible week of starting pitching for us.”
The Indians finished 6-1 on their seven-game homestand, allowing a total of six runs. The starters went 6-0 with a 0.16 ERA.
“I think it’s comforting to know that we can win games in other ways than scoring a whole bunch of runs,” left fielder David Dellucci told the team’s official Web site. “We’d much rather be winning games 10-0 and have our pitching keep throwing the way they’ve been throwing, but that’s not happening right now.”
When they make the short trip to Cincinnati, however, they’ll send a pitcher to the mound who hasn’t had a hand in any of the team’s recent scoreless streaks. Jeremy Sowers (0-0, 5.06 ERA) has made just one spot start this season, when he allowed three runs over 5 1-3 innings as the Indians beat New York 4-3 on April 26.
His opponent won’t be a welcoming sight to the 24-year-old left-hander. Sowers has only made 28 major-league starts, but three of those have come against the Reds (18-23). He’s 0-2 with a 9.60 ERA, and allowed 12 runs in 10 innings in two starts against Cincinnati last season.
Cincinnati’s offense is 11th in the NL in runs, but it didn’t have problems putting up runs against Florida. The Reds are in last place in the NL Central, but scored 20 runs in sweeping three games from the NL East leaders, after the fourth game - scheduled for Thursday - was rained out.
Right fielder Ken Griffey Jr., three homers shy of 600 for his career, is hitting .333 (10-for-30) in his last eight games. While Griffey hasn’t homered in his last 17 games, he’s had no problem hitting the long ball in baseball’s interleague format. He’s hit 49 homers in 150 career interleague games - only Jim Thome (53) has hit more.
Dusty Baker wasn’t around to see the Reds go 7-11 in interleague play last season, but the first-year manager—who has spent time at the helm of San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs—isn’t a fan of seeing teams from the AL.
“I’m not crazy about it,” Baker told the team’s official Web site. “I don’t think there’s any way to do it. The balance of power shifts from division to division.”
The Reds hope rookie Johnny Cueto (2-4, 5.91) can deliver the team’s fourth straight win. Cueto, who became an overnight phenom after a one-hit, 10-strikeout performance in his major-league debut on April 3, has struggled in his last four outings.
He’s 1-3 with a 9.31 ERA in that stretch, and allowed six runs over 4 2-3 innings in his last start, an 8-3 loss to New York on Sunday.