After seemingly giving up on the season by dealing their ace pitcher, the Cleveland Indians made a statement heading into the All-Star break by sweeping one of baseball’s best teams at home.
Their road struggles, however, haven’t ended.
The Indians will try to avoid losing an 11th straight game away from home on Saturday when they continue their series with the Seattle Mariners.
Cleveland (41-54) dealt ace CC Sabathia to Milwaukee on July 7 after it had lost eight straight games, a streak that eventually stretched to 10. Prior to the All-Star break, though, the Indians returned home from an eight-game road trip and pulled off a four-game sweep of AL East-leading Tampa Bay.
Cleveland is 26-22 at Progressive Field, but has done little right away from its home park. A loss Saturday to Seattle (38-58) would mark the Indians’ first 11-game road losing streak since they dropped 12 in a row from June 21-July 12, 1991.
The current skid hit 10 on Friday in an 8-2 loss to the Mariners. An error by shortstop Jhonny Peralta in the second inning led to five unearned runs.
On Saturday, Cleveland will turn to a pitcher who hasn’t won since May 24, 2007. Despite subpar performances, Jeremy Sowers (0-5, 7.51 ERA) has stayed in the rotation with Sabathia’s departure, and with fellow starters Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona on the disabled list.
Sowers gave up two runs in four innings on Sunday against Tampa Bay. He struck out eight but walked seven, failing to last the five innings necessary to earn a win. Wedge, though, hasn’t lost faith in the 25-year-old left-hander.
“His stuff was as good as I’ve ever seen his stuff,” Wedge told the Indians’ official Web site. “He is most definitely getting better.”
Sowers’ two career starts against the Mariners have been outstanding. He’s 1-0 and hasn’t allowed a run in 14 innings, including a shutout in 2006.
Seattle is looking to win three straight games for only the third time in 2008. The Mariners’ pitching staff has a mediocre 4.25 ERA this season, but has done some of its best work lately, with a 2.53 ERA over the last 11 games.
Miguel Batista (4-10, 6.22) gets his first start since exiting after two innings with a groin injury on July 9 at Detroit. He’s bounced between the rotation and the bullpen after putting up some miserable numbers as a starter.
Batista, 0-4 with a 7.28 ERA in his last seven starts, hasn’t won as a starter since May 11. One of his best outings of the season, though, came at Cleveland on May 1, when he went seven innings and allowed just a run and four hits. The Indians won that game 3-2 in 11 innings.
With a team-leading 59 RBIs, outfielder Raul Ibanez continues to be a bright spot in Seattle’s lineup. The subject of trade rumors, Ibanez hit his 12th homer - and second in three games - on Friday, a grand slam in a five-run second inning.
“I don’t think I can explain in words how much he means to the ballclub,” Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. “He’s one of the more first-class people you will ever meet in the game.
“He’s also a heck of a player.”