After being held in check by two left-handers they had never seen before, the Cleveland Indians are probably looking forward to facing any right-hander – even one they have never faced.
The Indians own baseball’s best record against righty starters as they get their first look at the New York Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda in the opener of a three-game set Monday night in the Bronx.
Cleveland (37-34) dropped the final two games of a weekend series in Houston, falling to unheralded Dallas Keuchel in an 8-1 loss Saturday and fellow southpaw J.A. Happ in a 7-1 defeat Sunday. The Indians are 5-15 against left-handed starters, but 32-19 against right-handers.
“You can’t complain when the lefties beat us,” manager Manny Acta told the Indians’ official website. “We’re willing to live with it because the majority of the pitchers are right-handers.”
Kuroda (6-7, 3.57 ERA) has never faced Cleveland as he adjusts to his first AL season with New York (43-28). He has seen few current Indians hitters, with Jose Lopez going 3 for 3 against him.
After a four-start stretch in which he went 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA, Kuroda gave up four runs over seven innings in Tuesday’s 4-3 home loss to Atlanta. He’s still holding opponents to a .234 average at Yankee Stadium, compared with .281 on the road.
New York and Cleveland begin their six-game season series after the Yankees took four of seven 2011 meetings. Curtis Granderson went 12 for 30 with five homers in those games while Robinson Cano was 11 for 28 and Alex Rodriguez 10 for 28.
This series features infielders who have been flexing their muscles recently in second baseman Cano and Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
Five of Cano’s last eight hits have been home runs, coming over a seven-game span. His tiebreaking solo shot Sunday in the eighth inning helped the Yankees post a 6-5 victory over the Mets.
Cabrera, meanwhile, is 9 for 30 with four homers and eight RBIs over his last eight contests. His .384 on-base percentage leads all middle infielders, with Cano fourth at .367 and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter seventh at .355.
The Yankees lead the majors with 112 homers, but have never gone deep against Josh Tomlin (3-4, 5.12). The right-hander is 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in three outings against them, losing his lone appearance in the Bronx last June as he gave up six runs and a career-high 12 hits over five innings in a 9-1 defeat.
Tomlin allowed one run over 6 2-3 innings Tuesday in a 3-2, 10-inning win over Cincinnati.
The Yankees may not be too concerned about facing Tomlin after scoring five times Sunday against R.A. Dickey, who entered the contest with consecutive one-hitters.
“We feel like we can beat everybody. We never go into a game saying, ‘We’ll probably lose this one because this guy’s hot,'” slugger Mark Teixeira said.
While New York has posted back-to-back one-run victories, Cleveland’s 12-2 record in such games is baseball’s best.
Indians outfielder Johnny Damon, who has six hits in his last 15 at-bats, is returning to the Bronx with his third different team since capping his Yankees career by helping the club win the 2009 World Series.