Nearly 2 1/2 months into the season and following a rocky start, that gamble is paying off.
Pavano looks to continue his astonishing turnaround and build off his best start in years when he takes the ball for the Indians on Wednesday against the slumping Kansas City Royals.
Following a career-best 18-win season for Florida in 2004, Pavano (6-4, 4.63 ERA) signed a four-year $39.95 million deal with the New York Yankees. Between several stints on the disabled list and Tommy John surgery in 2007, Pavano made just 26 starts for the Yankees, going 9-8 with a 5.00 ERA.
The right-hander signed a one-year deal with Cleveland (26-34) in the offseason. After going 0-3 with a 9.50 ERA in four April starts, Pavano has gone 6-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his last eight outings.
On Friday, Pavano pitched a three-hitter with two walks and six strikeouts in a 6-0 win over the Chicago White Sox for his fifth career shutout and first since May 17, 2005.
“I think every year is a new year. Obviously I had a good year in ’04 but this is a new year for me,” said Pavano, who leads the Indians in victories and has twice as many as reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee(notes). “I just want to build off of what I’ve been doing. I’ve learned from the success that I’ve had in the past but not dwell too much on it.”
Pavano is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA in two starts against the Royals (24-33) this season, allowing seven runs while striking out 16 in 12 innings.
The Indians, who were expected to contend for the AL Central crown, won for the fourth time in six games to move a half-game ahead of last-place Kansas City.
“We’ve battled hard,” said DeRosa, who leads Cleveland with 42 RBIs. “But at the same time, we feel like we’re capable of way more than being one game above the cellar.”
The Royals, meanwhile, have lost 10 of 11 and are a major league-worst 6-22 since May 8. They’ve dropped 7 1/2 games back of Central-leading Detroit after leading the division by three games on May 7.
Kansas City pounded out 12 hits Tuesday, but left eight runners on base. The Royals have plated only 29 runs in their last 11 games.
Getting back in the win column won’t be easy, as Kansas City has lost eight of the last nine times Gil Meche(notes) (2-5, 4.08) has pitched. Since beating Minnesota on May 3, Meche is 0-3 with a 4.02 ERA in six starts with the Royals losing each time.
Meche hasn’t pitched badly over the last month, but he hasn’t received much help from his lineup.
He’s allowed two earned runs or less in each of his last four starts, but has been backed by eight total runs of support. On Thursday, the right-hander allowed one run, six hits and five walks in six innings of a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay, but didn’t factor in the decision.
In two starts against the Indians this season, Meche is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA, yielding six runs—five earned—in 13 1-3 innings.