On Sunday night in Cleveland, the pitcher with the best interleague winning percentage will square off with the hitter with the best average in interleague play. The other starter is also a former Cy Young Award winner.
Lee (3-6, 3.17 ERA) has already doubled his loss total from last year’s Cy Young Award-winning season, but the Indians usually don’t lose when he faces the NL. He is 11-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 19 career interleague outings, and that .846 winning percentage is the best for any pitcher with at least 12 decisions.
Cleveland (28-36) is 14-5 in the left-hander’s interleague starts, and Lee is 5-0 with a 3.62 ERA in eight career home starts versus NL foes. He has faced the Cardinals (34-29) once, earning a 10-3 road win on June 26, 2006, by giving up two runs over six innings.
That marks the only time Lee has pitched to Pujols, who went 1 for 2 with a walk. The St. Louis superstar is the all-time leader in interleague batting average at .355 (155 for 437) with 30 homers and 100 RBIs.
“He’s a special player,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s probably the best hitter in the game right now. That’s not something you say very lightly.”
Wedge is speaking from experience after the Indians failed to contain Pujols on Saturday when he recorded his 27th multihomer game and fourth this season with two solo shots in a 3-1 victory. The reigning NL MVP also homered Friday night and is 7 for 16 with four homers and six RBIs in his last four games after breaking an 0-for-14 streak.
“I just use same game plan as in the NL and if it doesn’t work, then I try to figure it out,” Pujols said.
Cleveland is hoping Lee can stop Pujols’ homer binge. In his last start, Lee allowed four runs over six innings Tuesday and did not get a decision in an 8-4 win over Kansas City.
Carpenter (4-0, 1.23), meanwhile, is 7-9 with a 4.85 ERA in 23 interleague starts, including 2-3 with a 5.31 ERA since joining the Cardinals in 2004.
The right-hander missed a month of action after straining his left rib cage muscle while batting, but hasn’t shown any effects of it on the mound. The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner threw a three-hitter two starts ago on June 4 in a 3-1 win over Cincinnati, and did not receive a decision Tuesday at Florida after allowing three runs over six innings in a 4-3 loss.
Carpenter has faced the Indians just once in interleague play, allowing one run over seven innings and not getting a decision June 28, 2006, in a 5-4 victory. He is 2-2 with a 5.96 ERA in seven starts and nine career appearances against them.