After a rocky start to 2008, C.C. Sabathia appears to have regained the dominance that helped him become one of baseball’s best starters last year.
The ace’s resurgence is coming at the right time for a Cleveland Indians team looking to avoid its longest skid of the season.
Sabathia looks to prevent a fourth consecutive loss for the Indians, while stopping the Chicago White Sox from posting their season-best sixth straight victory on Tuesday, when the teams meet for the opener of a three-game series.
Sabathia opened 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA in his first four starts after going 19-7 with a career-best 3.21 ERA last season en route to winning the AL Cy Young Award.
But the left-hander has put his early struggles behind him, posting a 3-2 record and a 1.49 ERA in his last five starts.
Sabathia (3-5, 5.47 ERA) comes in after winning back-to-back starts for the first time this season - a stretch in which he limited opponents to one run and 11 hits over 16 innings.
He matched a season best with 11 strikeouts in his first complete game of 2008, tossing a five-hitter in a 2-0 home victory over Oakland on Wednesday.
Sabathia is poised to win a third straight start for the first time since Aug. 29-Sept. 8 when he faces the White Sox (23-20), who have been one of his favorite opponents.
Against Chicago, Sabathia is 14-3 with a 3.66 ERA in 24 career starts, going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 road appearances.
While he is 6-0 with a 2.54 ERA in nine starts versus the White Sox since May 2, 2006, his most recent outing didn’t go very smoothly. He was reached for five runs and six hits, but didn’t receive a decision after striking out seven in 5 1-3 innings of a 10-8 victory on March 31.
Sabathia will be hoping for a better fate as he tries to help the Indians (22-22) avert their first four-game skid since July 28-Aug. 1.
Cleveland was swept for the first time over the weekend, losing 6-4 at Cincinnati on Sunday in the finale of a three-game interleague set.
The Indians scored nine runs and hit just .233 in the series. Their struggles at the plate have been a concern all season, as they are batting an AL-worst .236 overall.
“A bad series,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We didn’t play very well, we didn’t hit very well. You do that, you’re going to get beat.”
Cleveland, though, still leads the AL with an impressive 3.36 ERA. But if the Central-leading White Sox continue their latest offensive surge, that number might change.
The White Sox went 7-3 on a West Coast road trip that was capped by a three-game sweep of San Francisco. They had season highs in hits (15) and homers (four) on Sunday in a 13-8 victory.
“We continue to get good at-bats,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “This is a nice little streak. At least we go home with a better feeling than our last road trip.”
The White Sox will try to win six straight for the first time since a nine-game run from June 15-24, 2006, behind right-hander Jose Contreras (4-3, 3.35).
He won his second straight start on Wednesday, limiting the Angels to one run and four hits over seven innings of a 6-1 victory at Los Angeles.
Contreras is 4-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 11 career appearances - 10 starts - versus the Indians.
White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has gone 17-for-40 (.425) with three RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak - the longest active run in the AL.