Orioles-Indians Preview

The Associated Press

The Cleveland Indians' recent offensive struggles have a playoff spot looking less and less likely.

Those struggles could become even more magnified after a potential huge blow to the pitching staff.

Cleveland will look to break out of its slump Tuesday night and gain ground against the visiting Baltimore Orioles.

Ace Justin Masterson was pulled in the second inning of a 7-2 loss to the Orioles on Monday due to soreness in his left side. The sinkerballer is scheduled to undergo an MRI and other tests Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury, which could potentially end Masterson's season and Cleveland's slim playoff hopes.

The Indians (72-65) trail the Orioles (73-63) by 1 1/2 games in the AL wild-card chase.

"He's our best pitcher," manager Terry Francona said. "But when things don't go your way, you can either feel sorry for yourselves or you can find a way to shine. I hope that we are able to come back, whether it takes everybody in the bullpen or guys on the bench, keep fighting."

Cleveland has plated 16 runs while batting .222 in losing six of seven. Francona's club has been solid this year with runners in scoring position, batting .257, but is 5 for 43 (.116) in the last seven.

Scheduled starter Ubaldo Jimenez (9-9, 3.95 ERA) is all too familiar with his club's offensive struggles. He went 1-4 in August despite a 3.10 ERA while receiving a total of seven runs of support.

The right-hander went seven innings in Thursday's 3-1 loss at Atlanta, and all three of the runs against him came on a homer by Brian McCann. It was the first home run he surrendered in six outings.

"Right now we're in the situation where if you make a mistake you're probably going to pay for it with the game," said Jimenez, who has recorded 28 strikeouts in 18 2-3 innings over his last three games. "We're not scoring a lot of runs. That's part of baseball. Sometimes you're going to get in a stretch like that."

Baltimore's Matt Wieters was 4 for 5 with a homer Monday, while Nate McLouth was 2 for 4 with a home run.

The Orioles have won two in a run but are still 8-11 since Aug. 12.

Trying to help improve that mark Tuesday will be Chris Tillman (15-4, 3.61), who became the team's first 15-game winner since Erik Bedard in 2006 after limiting Boston to two runs over seven innings in a 3-2 road victory Thursday. No Baltimore pitcher has had more wins since Mike Mussina had 18 in 1999.

"It's a starting pitcher's goal for the guys to trust you every time we go out there," Tillman said.

The right-hander is 2-1 with a 4.79 ERA over four career starts versus Cleveland. He won the last two, including a 6-3 home victory on June 25.

J.J. Hardy is one homer away from becoming the fourth active shortstop and ninth since 1901 to hit 25 or more in three separate seasons. He's 3 for 8 with a homer against Jimenez.

Jimenez gave up two runs - both on homers to Wieters and Nick Markakis - in a 5-2 win at Baltimore on June 24, his only career appearance versus the Orioles.

What to Read Next