Boston (25-21) at Cleveland (29-15)

Cloudy Currently: Cleveland, OH
Temp: 44° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Mon May 23, 2011
  • TV: ESPN2, STO
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The early season surprise label is quickly fading for the Cleveland Indians.

A strong showing against the surging Boston Red Sox would only further their case of being a legitimate contender.

In Monday night’s series opener at Progressive Field, the Indians look to win their fourth in a row against a Red Sox team seeking its ninth victory in 10 games.

It was somewhat expected that Cleveland (29-15) would regress a bit after opening the season a stunning 12-4, but the club has continued to flourish and owns a seven-game lead atop the AL Central, easily the largest of the division leaders.

The Indians, who have tied the best home start in franchise history at 18-4, defeated Cincinnati 12-4 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep of the defending NL Central champions.

“We’ve got a good team,” Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) said. “We know it, and we just want to keep it going.”

Cabrera has been instrumental in the Indians’ start—they rank first in the AL in batting average at .266 and second in runs with 228.

Cabrera went 5 for 5 with two homers and a career-high five RBIs Sunday, and leads the team with nine home runs and 32 RBIs. He is also batting .360 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 18 games this month.

“I’m just trying to do good things for the team,” said Cabrera, who homered and had five RBIs against the Red Sox earlier this season. “I’m just thinking about trying to win the game and do what I can do. And have fun.”

The Indians swept a three-game home series from Boston from April 5-7, and have outscored the Red Sox 31-12 in winning the last five meetings in Cleveland.

The series in April was part of Boston’s disastrous 2-10 start.

The Red Sox (25-21) are playing much better now, though, having gone a major league-best 23-11 since April 16.

Boston arrives in Cleveland after defeating the Chicago Cubs 5-1 on Sunday to close within one-half game of New York and Tampa Bay in the AL East. The Red Sox have plated 54 runs while batting .304 in the last nine games.

Adrian Gonzalez(notes) has been the key contributor to this offensive charge, batting .431 with six homers and 19 RBIs in his last 13 games. He also has five home runs and 14 RBIs in his last nine road contests.

Although both team’s offenses are playing well, runs could be scarce in the opener with Justin Masterson(notes) (5-2, 2.52 ERA) and Clay Buchholz(notes) (4-3, 3.42) squaring off.

Masterson has allowed one run in five of his nine starts - including Wednesday against the White Sox. The right-hander gave up five hits while striking out eight but received no help from his offense in a complete-game 1-0 loss at U.S. Cellular Field. He has received one total run of support in his last three starts.

“I’m just going out there busting my tail,” Masterson told the Indians’ official website.

Masterson was brilliant against the Red Sox last season, posting a 0.64 ERA in winning both starts.

Like Masterson, Buchholz is also coming off arguably his best start of the season.

Against Detroit on Wednesday, Buchholz allowed four hits while striking out seven in seven innings and exited a scoreless game after throwing a career-high 127 pitches. The Red Sox rallied for a 1-0 win.

Buchholz is 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in his four starts this month, and 8-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 10 May starts since the start of last season. The right-hander hasn’t fared as well against the Indians, however, going 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in two career starts against them.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Buchholz Bos vs. J. Masterson Bos
6-3 Record 12-10
3.48 ERA 3.21
60 K 158
31 BB 65
1.29 WHIP 1.28


Monday, May 23