After a dominating first half culminated in an impressive performance as the AL’s starter at the All-Star game, it’s safe to say that Cliff Lee has given the Cleveland Indians more than they expected this season.
Lee and Silva will engage in an apparent pitching mismatch on Sunday when the AL’s two worst teams decide their three-game series in Seattle.
Not much has gone right for the Indians (42-54) in 2008, but they’ve had a good chance to win nearly every time Lee has taken the mound.
One season after the left-hander spent time both on the disabled list and in the minor leagues, Lee (12-2, 2.31 ERA) is tied for the AL lead in wins and is second in ERA. Those numbers earned him a start in Tuesday’s All-Star game, and he responded by striking out three and allowing one hit in two scoreless innings.
Cleveland is 13-5 when Lee pitches, compared with a 29-49 record in all other games. He won his final start before the break July 11 by striking out seven in six innings of a 5-0 victory over Tampa Bay.
“I still feel like there are things that I could do better,” Lee told the Indians’ official Web site. “I’ve never been one to be happy where I’m at. I still feel like there are things I could still improve at and get better.”
There are plenty of things Silva (4-11, 5.46) could improve, as he is 1-11 with a 6.93 ERA since the beginning of May. His .317 opponent batting average for the year ranks among the five worst in the majors, not what the Mariners were hoping for when they signed him to a four-year, $48 million contract before the season.
The right-hander has been a bit better recently, allowing two runs in three of his last four starts.
A former AL Central rival of Cleveland when he was with Minnesota, Silva has made 18 career appearances against the Indians, going 4-6 with a 5.10 ERA. Grady Sizemore has feasted on Silva, going 21-for-43 (.448) with nine extra-base hits against him.
Silva did pitch well against Cleveland on April 29, allowing two runs in seven innings of Seattle’s 7-2 victory - though he did not get the win. Lee, meanwhile, beat the Mariners the next day, allowing three runs in six innings of an 8-3 win to move to 6-1 with a 3.90 ERA in his career against Seattle.
The Indians won the final two games of that three-game series, something they hope to repeat after Saturday’s 9-6 win at Safeco Field.
Shin-Soo Choo - who was traded to Cleveland by the Mariners in 2006 - was 3-for-5 with a home run, a pair of doubles and three RBIs in the victory, which snapped the Indians’ 10-game road losing streak. They still haven’t won a road series against an AL opponent since taking two of three at Yankee Stadium May 6-8.
Cleveland has now won five of six overall after losing 10 in a row, but still sits in the Central cellar. The only AL team with a lower winning percentage is Seattle (38-59), which is now 21 games back of the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.
The Mariners might have former All-Star closer J.J. Putz back in the bullpen Sunday. Putz has been on the disabled list since June 13 with an elbow injury, and has a 5.21 ERA this year - nearly four runs worse than his 1.38 ERA in 2007.