While he isn’t a household name, Ryan Raburn is leading the charge for the surging Cleveland Indians.
The Indians try to extend their winning streak to five for the first time in two years Friday night when they open a three-game set against the visiting Minnesota Twins.
After back-to-back two-homer games, Raburn had his second four-hit contest in three days and drove in another two runs as Cleveland (12-13) completed a two-game sweep of Philadelphia with Wednesday’s 6-0 win. Having only appeared in 16 games, Raburn has made the most of increased playing time with Nick Swisher (shoulder) and Michael Bourn (finger) out due to injury.
While Bourn remains sidelined, Swisher could return following a two-game absence.
“When you plug a guy in, whether it’s injury or a doubleheader or whatever, and he gets this hot, that’s such an added bonus,” manager Terry Francona said of Raburn, who’s 11 for 13 with nine RBIs over the last three games. “You can’t flip a switch on when a guy plays, but he’s been so hot. We’ve been able to hit him all over the lineup.”
Raburn isn’t the only one locked in. Hitting a major league-best .395, Carlos Santana is 10 for 18 with a homer, five walks, five runs scored and four RBIs over the last five games. Asdrubal Cabrera has also come up big over that stretch, going 9 for 20 with seven RBIs.
The Indians, who have outscored opponents 39-5 during their run, haven’t won five straight since a seven-game winning streak April 26-May 3, 2011.
“Their whole team is swinging the bat so well, you just have to credit them,” Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee said.
Cleveland will try to keep things going against Pedro Hernandez (1-0, 2.35 ERA). The 24-year-old left-hander scattered five hits over five scoreless innings Saturday, earning his first big league win in a 7-2 victory over Texas.
“Hernandez was fantastic,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We got exactly what we wanted out of him, a nice performance by him.”
The Indians counter with Justin Masterson (4-2, 3.12), who’s gone 1-2 with a 6.38 ERA over his last three starts. The right-hander struck out a season-high nine but otherwise struggled in the opener of Sunday’s day-night doubleheader against Kansas City, allowing seven runs over 6 1-3 innings of a 9-0 loss.
“I ended up hanging some pitches up there and not finishing through a couple,” he said. “Hopefully this is one of the outliers of the season. You’re bound to have something like this.”
Masterson went 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA against the Twins (12-12) last year. He was especially bad in a 12-5 road loss July 28, yielding a career-high 10 runs over 5 2-3 innings.
Masterson, though, has had his way with Joe Mauer, limiting him to four hits in 23 at-bats since 2010. He’s also made things difficult on Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham, who are a combined 3 for 23 in their matchups.
While Mauer was batting .393 on April 20, his average has since dropped to .287 thanks to a 3-for-33 slump. The five-time All-Star is a career .339 hitter versus Cleveland.
After playing in all 23 games, Mauer was given the day off Wednesday as Minnesota won 6-2 at Detroit. Chris Parmelee went 2 for 4 with a homer and two RBIs.
“We’re relying on what’s going to make us win,” winning pitcher Scott Diamond told MLB’s official website. “That’s our defense and moving runners. It’s a good thing we’re focusing on the right things.”
The Twins have hit .292 and outscored the Indians 103-56 during a 12-3 run in the series. They have won six of eight in Cleveland.