The Cleveland Indians have spent the first two months of the season trying to figure out what’s wrong with their lackluster offense.
Not being able to solve the Chicago White Sox is turning into an equally serious problem.
The Indians, losers of nine of their last 10 games, will try to avoid a sixth consecutive loss to the White Sox on Tuesday when the teams continue a three-game series at Progressive Field.
Cleveland (23-28) won the AL Central last season and came within a game of the World Series before succumbing to Boston in the ALCS. The Indians were expected to be one of baseball’s best teams again in 2008, and looked to be fitting the bill in their first two games, scoring 17 combined runs in a pair of wins over Chicago.
But Cleveland’s offense has rarely looked the same since. The Indians, who averaged five runs last season and were one of baseball’s 10 best offenses, are now averaging just four while settling in as one of the majors’ 10 worst.
They’ve been particularly inept against the White Sox (28-22). Cleveland had scored just five runs in their last four games versus Chicago heading into Monday’s series opener. After scoring three in the first five innings, the Indians didn’t score again in their 6-3, 12-inning loss to the White Sox.
“Things are not going our way right now,” manager Eric Wedge said. “That’s why we play six months and we’ve got four-plus to go.”
Cleveland has scored three or fewer runs 28 times, and is 6-22 in those games.
The Indians have stayed competitive with their strong pitching, and one of their biggest surprises will be on the mound on Tuesday. Aaron Laffey (2-3, 1.60 ERA) has allowed only two earned runs in 28 innings in May, going seven innings in each of those four starts.
But due to a lack of run support, he’s lost twice in that span, including Thursday against Chicago. He allowed two runs on six hits, but Cleveland’s lack of offense was a problem again as the White Sox won 3-1 to complete a three-game sweep.
“It gets frustrating,” Laffey told the team’s official Web site. “But teams go through this. At some point, we’re going to turn it around.”
While the Indians have lost nine of 10, the White Sox have won 10 of 12 and they’ve done it primarily with dominant pitching. Chicago has allowed three or fewer runs 11 times in those 12 games, including seven straight.
Mark Buehrle (2-5, 4.82) will look to keep that streak alive as he again matches up with Laffey. He’s coming off consecutive strong starts. Buehrle has allowed just a run apiece each time, and went seven innings on Thursday while allowing the Indians one run on two hits for his first win since April 6.
“Any starting pitcher wants to win,” Buehrle said. “But I’ve always said I can go 0-0 and if they win all my starts we’ll be in the right place at the end of the year.”
Buehrle is 4-4 with a 4.07 ERA in 14 career starts in Cleveland, but lasted just 1 2-3 innings while allowing seven runs in a 10-8 loss on opening day.
Another player who’s had plenty of success in Cleveland during his career is former Indian Jim Thome, who hit 334 home runs in 12 seasons with Chicago’s AL Central rival.
Thome is only hitting .207 this season, but he’s hit five of his 10 home runs against Cleveland.