Despite an ERA nearly as good as his Cy Young season last year, Cliff Lee(notes) has had a hard time earning wins this season for the struggling Cleveland Indians - even against the woeful Kansas City Royals.
But he’ll try to win a second straight start for the first time this year and finally beat the Royals in his third attempt Tuesday night, when a victory at home to open this three-game set would also pull Cleveland out of last place in the AL Central.
Lee (3-6, 2.96 ERA) won all five of his starts against Kansas City last year, when he went 22-3 and made an unlikely run to the AL Cy Young Award, developing into Cleveland’s ace once CC Sabathia(notes) was traded.
The left-hander has been just as effective versus the Royals this season, twice holding them to two runs in eight innings, but he is 0-1 in those starts and the Indians (25-34) lost both games.
Lee’s last 10 outings have all been quality starts, but patchy run support and bullpen woes caused Cleveland to lose nine of his first 11 starts before he beat Minnesota with eight strong innings in a 10-1 victory Wednesday.
“I feel just as confident going on the mound now as I ever have,” Lee said. “My job is to get deep in the game and to give the team a chance to win, and I feel like I’ve been doing that.
“For whatever reason, the results as far as winning or losing have not been there. All I can do is throw good pitches.”
A similar effort will likely be enough to shut down the Royals, whose .224 batting average and .276 on-base percentage in the last 27 games are the lowest in baseball over that span. They have gone 6-21 in those games, averaging fewer than three runs.
Kansas City (24-32) ended an eight-game losing streak Saturday, but it still lost its series at Toronto after getting blanked by Roy Halladay(notes) in a 4-0 loss Sunday. For the fourth time in their last eight games, the Royals did not draw a walk.
It likely won’t get much easier against Lee—he’s walked nine batters in his last nine outings—as Kansas City faces a former Cy Young Award winner for the second straight game.
“With the offensive deficiencies we’ve had, it’s a big challenge for us,” Royals manager Trey Hillman told his team’s official Web site.
Bannister (4-3, 4.97) was 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA in his first seven starts, but he has given up 15 runs in 8 2-3 innings while losing his last two outings. He didn’t get out of the fourth inning of a 9-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
“This one was all my fault,” Bannister said.
Bannister has been much better against the Indians, going 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA in seven career starts. He is 3-0 in four appearances at Progressive Field and has not allowed an earned run in three of them.
The clubs, separated by a half-game at the bottom of the Central, already have met nine times this year. Cleveland is 5-4 and took two of three in the Royals’ previous visit to northeast Ohio.
The Indians are opening a nine-game homestand after taking two of three from the Chicago White Sox, capped by an 8-4 win Sunday as they hit four home runs.