The Cleveland Indians haven’t lost any ground in the AL Central despite opening the second half with a subpar showing against one of baseball’s worst teams. They now face the club with the longest winning streak in the majors.
The Indians try to hand the Mariners their first loss in seven games in Monday night’s opener in Seattle.
After a pair of 3-2 losses at Minnesota following the All-Star break, Cleveland (52-46) salvaged the final game of the set with Sunday’s 7-1 victory to end a four-game road skid.
Jason Kipnis hit a two-run homer – his 15th of the season – to lead the offense, while right-hander Justin Masterson allowed one hit over seven innings to earn his 11th win.
“You’ve seen the last couple games. We were just a little bit sloppy kind of all the way around,” Masterson told baseball’s official website. “I think (this) is a nice one – a little kick in the pants.”
The Indians remain only 1 1/2 games behind division-leading Detroit, which also dropped two of three in Kansas City.
Cleveland swept a four-game home series from the Mariners from May 17-20, but appears to be making its first trip to Seattle at the wrong time.
The Mariners (46-52) extended their season-best winning streak to six with a 12-5 victory at Houston on Sunday.
After winning Saturday despite having only one hit, Nick Franklin keyed a seven-run second inning with a grand slam and Dustin Ackley added three hits and two RBIs.
“We’ve been swinging it well and it was just one of those adjustment periods we had to go through and get back after it the next day,” Franklin said.
The Mariners have hit 11 homers and outscored their opponents 44-20 during their longest winning streak since posting eight consecutive victories Aug. 14-22.
They’ll try continue that production against right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (7-4, 4.56 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 3.75 ERA over his last seven outings.
Jimenez, however, didn’t get through the fifth inning in his last start – his shortest since June 7 – yielding four runs in four-plus innings in a 6-4 win over Kansas City on July 14.
Jimenez is 2-0 with a 4.21 ERA in four career starts versus the Mariners. He’s faced them once this season, striking out nine and giving up two runs in five-plus innings before leaving without a decision in a 6-3 win May 17.
Michael Saunders is 4 for 8 with a home run lifetime when facing Jimenez and looks to extend a 10-game hitting streak overall.
Seattle’s Aaron Harang (4-8, 5.38 ERA) hopes to bounce back from one of his worst starts, allowing seven runs, eight hits and a season-high three walks over five-plus innings in an 11-4 loss to Boston on July 10.
The right-hander had gone 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his previous five starts.
Harang is 4-2 with a 2.95 ERA in 10 career starts against the Indians, though he hasn’t faced them since 2010 when he was with Cincinnati.
Michael Bourn has seen Harang the most of any Indian, going 7 for 17 with a triple and two doubles against him since the start of the 2010 season. He also went 7 for 18 in the first series of the season against the Mariners.
Kipnis went 8 for 17 with a home run in that set, leaving him with a .419 average, two homers and six RBIs over a seven-game hitting streak against Seattle.