A struggling Jeremy Guthrie pitched well in his last start.
Whether he has made any permanent strides will be seen when he takes the ball for the visiting Kansas City Royals, who look to snap a three-game losing streak Saturday night against the Cleveland Indians.
Guthrie (8-6, 4.12 ERA) was 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA over a four-start stretch before allowing one run, six hits and one walk in 6 2-3 innings of Monday’s 5-1 win at Yankee Stadium – his first victory since June 10.
Making Guthrie’s outing even more impressive was that he had to handle a 59-minute rain delay, after a rain delay of greater than two and a half hours interfered with his previous start.
“Tremendous competitor,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “He showed it today – to endure an hour rain delay and go out and throw at the level that he threw.”
The Indians might have finally figured a way around Guthrie toward the end of his last appearance against them. The right-hander had 11 2-3 scoreless innings against Cleveland this season entering the sixth inning on July 3. Jason Kipnis hit a three-run home run with no outs in the sixth, and Guthrie was charged with two more in the seventh, but the Royals (43-47) ended up rallying for a 6-5 win.
Their offense hasn’t been nearly as productive lately, totaling five over the course of a three-game losing streak and plating five or less in each of the last eight.
Billy Butler is 6 for his last 43 (.140), a skid that began when the Indians held him to two hits in 11 at-bats in the series that began July 2.
All-Star Alex Gordon, who struck out with the bases loaded with one out in the fifth inning in Friday’s series-opening 3-0 loss, is 2 for his last 17 (.118). Eric Hosmer, who arrived at Progressive Field batting .389 average with five home runs over a 13-game stretch, followed Gordon with a groundout as part of an 0-for-4 performance.
Cleveland’s offense hasn’t been much better. The Indians (49-44) have scored 16 runs over their last five games, but they’ve managed to win three of them behind a pitching staff that has a 1.96 ERA during that span.
The Indians recorded six hits Friday, but five of them came in a row to start the seventh inning. Carlos Santana, who entered Friday in a 3-for-18 slump, had an RBI single and Mark Reynolds, stuck in a 3-for-37 rut, followed with a bunt single. Michael Bourn, who entered 5 for his previous 29 (.172), tacked on a two-run double.
“Reynolds sensed something that could happen, and made a great play by bunting,” Kansas City reliever Aaron Crow said. “That pitch to Bourn was down and in, almost on the ground, so that was just a great piece of hitting.”
Scott Kazmir (4-4, 4.74) certainly didn’t mind seeing those slumping bats awaken. The left-hander has received 18 runs of support as the Indians have lost five of his last seven starts.
Kazmir hasn’t received a decision in his last two starts and hasn’t been able to pitch deep. After giving up three runs in five-plus innings in the defeat in Kansas City on July 3, Kazmir gave up two runs in 5 2-3 innings in Monday’s 4-2 loss to Detroit.
Gordon is 3 for 6 against Kazmir this season, and Butler is 2 for 4.