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Sun, Aug 12, 2012 - 1:05 PM ET
 

Red Sox-Indians Preview

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Jon Lester has not won in six weeks, but at least he feels he's getting close to ending the lengthy rough stretch.

Facing the Cleveland Indians may help him finally do it.

Mired in the worst season of his career, Lester hopes to continue his success against the Indians and help the Red Sox split their four-game set at Progressive Field on Sunday.

Lester (5-10, 5.36 ERA) is 0-5 with a 7.49 ERA in seven starts since beating Toronto on June 27. He gave up four runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-3 loss to Texas on Tuesday.

Though the left-hander continues to endure a disappointing year - he posted at least 15 wins each of the past four seasons - Lester believes there has been progress. He's pitched at least six innings in three consecutive outings, allowing no more than four runs in any of them, after failing to get through five in three straight.

"Past three starts, I felt like I've thrown the ball better than I have all year," said Lester, who has received no runs of support over his last two games.

He threw the ball extremely well against the Indians in 2011, when he allowed six hits and struck out 16 over 13 scoreless innings to go 1-0 in two starts. Lester is 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA in 10 outings versus Cleveland, including 2-0 at Progressive Field.

Cleveland's top three hitters average-wise - Michael Brantley, Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera - are a combined 4 for 27 (.148) with 12 strikeouts against Lester.

He looks to help the Red Sox (56-59) bounce back from a 5-2 loss Saturday. Boston has dropped eight of 11 this month after ending July with four straight victories.

The Indians (53-61), meanwhile, have won three of four following an 11-game skid that delivered a severe blow to their postseason chances. Cleveland has not won a series since taking two of three from Detroit at home July 24-26.

Brent Lillibridge had three hits Saturday, including his first homer since Aug. 31, and drove in two runs for the Indians. Traded to Cleveland on July 24 after going 2 for 16 in 10 games with Boston, Lillibridge is 5 for 12 with two doubles in his last three games.

"It's been a rough year, so it felt really good to contribute," said Lillibridge, who was traded from Chicago to Boston to Cleveland in less than a month.

Adrian Gonzalez drove in both runs for the Red Sox, who struggled on the same day they learned talented rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks is likely done for the season with a broken wrist. Batting .288 with 15 homers and 54 RBIs in 75 games, Middlebrooks was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning of Boston's 3-2 win Friday.

Gonzalez has four RBIs in the series but is 2 for 11 in the three games after batting .478 with 14 RBIs in his previous 12.

The Red Sox will get their first look at Cleveland's Corey Kluber (0-0, 6.10) when he makes his third career start in the finale.

The right-hander allowed six runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 7-6, 11-inning loss at Kansas City on Aug. 2, but he rebounded Tuesday to give up three - one earned - in six innings before closer Chris Perez yielded three in the ninth of a 7-5 loss to Minnesota.

Tagged: Red Sox, Indians, Jon Lester, Brent Lillibridge

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