Red Sox-Indians Preview

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 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 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 (5-2, 2.52 ERA) and Clay
Buchholz (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.