The Cleveland Indians are in position to get back to .500 for the first time in nearly four months.
A sweep of the last-place Kansas City Royals in a day-night doubleheader on Saturday would move the Indians back to the break-even mark for the first time since May 18, when they were 22-22.
In the series opener on Friday, Cliff Lee continued his push toward the AL Cy Young Award by winning his 11th straight decision and beating the Royals for the fifth time this year. The Cleveland ace came within two outs of complete game, and improved to 22-2 this season after a 12-5 victory.
“I know there have been some tremendous pitching seasons by starting pitchers over the years,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “But this is without a doubt nothing like I’ve ever seen.”
Lee’s streak is the longest by an Indians pitcher since Gaylord Perry won 15 straight decisions in 1974.
To try and reach .500 again, the Indians (72-74) will go with one pitcher who’s never lost to the Royals—and a former top overall pick who’s never won in the majors.
Fausto Carmona (8-6, 4.88 ERA), looking to win for the fourth time in five starts, takes the mound for Cleveland in Game 1. His streak ended Monday after yielding seven runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings of a 14-3 loss in Baltimore.
Carmona won in his only start this season against the Royals back in May. In eight appearances against Kansas City, including six starts, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 3.46 ERA.
Former No. 1 overall pick Bryan Bullington will make his Indians’ debut in the second game.
Bullington was selected with the top overall pick by Pittsburgh in the 2002 draft, ahead of players including B.J. Upton, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher and Cole Hamels. But the right-hander was 0-3 with a 5.89 ERA in six games, including three starts, with Pittsburgh in 2005 and 2007. He missed all of 2006 due to shoulder surgery.
He was picked up by the Indians on waivers July 10, and went 1-3 with a save and a 4.75 ERA in 10 games, including eight starts, with Triple-A Buffalo.
The Royals got two homers from Jose Guillen on Friday, but lost for the fourth time in five games. Guillen leads Kansas City with only 20 homers.
Zack Greinke (10-10, 3.70) will try once again to snap a long winless drought for the Royals in the opener. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 4.09 ERA in eight appearances—four starts—against the Indians since last beating Cleveland in May 2007.
On Sunday, Greinke allowed three runs and five hits over six innings and struck out eight in a 3-1 home loss to Cleveland. He also will try to tie Gil Meche for the team lead in wins.
After 23 relief appearances, Robinson Tejeda (1-2, 4.19) will make his first start of the season in the nightcap for the Royals (62-84).
The right-hander hasn’t taken the mound as a starter since facing Cleveland on July 22, 2007 while with Texas. He allowed five runs, five hits and walked five in five innings of an 8-3 loss.
Tejeda has given up a run and a hit in 4 1-3 innings spanning three appearances against the Indians this year.
The teams will meet for the final time this season on Sunday. Cleveland has won 10 of 15 from Kansas City in 2008.
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