Indians-Rays Preview

Coming off one of his better starts of the season, Justin

Masterson is probably itching to get the ball again. Unfortunately

for the Cleveland Indians starter, the mound he will be pitching

from and the opponent he will be facing have not been kind to

him.

Masterson looks for his first victory in six appearances at

Tropicana Field when the Indians continue a four-game series

Wednesday night with the Tampa Bay Rays, who have pounded the

right-hander throughout his career.

In his last start before the All-Star break, Masterson (6-8,

4.14 ERA) allowed eight runs and nine hits over 4 1-3 innings in a

10-3 home loss to the Rays on July 6.

It appeared the time off helped Masterson, as he gave up five

hits over seven innings of a 1-0 victory at Toronto on Friday.

“I don’t think I thought about baseball at all,” he said. “I

maybe caught a hair of some of the All-Star festivities but it was

just nice to relax, just sit back and kind of do your own thing. I

had a nice date night with my wife, ate at a little Italian

restaurant. It was cool.”

What hasn’t been cool for Masterson is the way Tampa Bay has

treated him over the years. The loss two weeks ago dropped him to

1-7 with a 7.69 ERA in 12 appearances – eight starts – against the

Rays, and he’s 0-4 with an 8.46 ERA at Tropicana Field.

“I probably should have just thrown left-handed,” Masterson said

after losing his seventh straight decision against the Rays.

Most of Tampa Bay’s regulars are hitting well over .300 against

Masterson, with B.J. Upton and Luke Scott leading the way. Upton is

6 for 13 with a home run and two doubles, while Scott is 8 for 19

with a homer and three doubles.

If that strong hitting continues, Jeremy Hellickson (4-6, 3.48)

would be the beneficiary for the Rays, and the right-hander could

sure use some run support.

Hellickson lost his sixth straight decision Friday, allowing

three runs and five hits while walking four over six-plus innings

in a 3-1 defeat to Boston.

He’s 0-6 with a 4.26 ERA in his last eight starts, losing 3-1 in

Cleveland on July 5 after giving up two runs and five hits with

four walks over six innings.

The Rays (47-44) have totaled four runs in the last three games

Hellickson has started.

“We just have to figure out a way to score four runs on a night

he gives up three,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s what it all

comes to.”

Hellickson, the 2011 AL rookie of the year, is 1-1 with a 1.38

ERA in two career starts against the Indians. He’s held All-Star

shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to one hit in five at-bats, and

designated hitter Travis Hafner is hitless in three at-bats against

him.

Cleveland (46-44) won for the third time in its last 13 games at

Tampa Bay in the series opener Monday before the Rays bounced back

with a 4-2 victory Tuesday.

Carlos Pena hit a two-run homer and Scott had an RBI triple as

Tampa Bay jumped out to a 3-0 first-inning lead.

Cabrera singled for his only hit in four trips to the plate,

leaving him 2 for 29 with 12 strikeouts over his last seven

games.