Although they soared into May behind a prolific offense, the road-weary Colorado Rockies simply haven’t had the same punch at the plate recently.
It isn’t likely to get any easier against one of baseball’s hottest pitchers, even with Carlos Gonzalez back in the lineup.
As Cleveland’s Corey Kluber looks to continue his outstanding month, the visiting Rockies will try to avoid their sixth loss in eight games while dealing the Indians a fifth straight defeat Friday night.
Colorado (28-25) led the majors with a .309 batting average and 5.0 runs per game through its first 36 contests, moving a season-high eight over .500 on May 7. The Rockies have since cooled off with a .244 average and 3.1 runs per game while dropping 11 of 17.
They’ve particularly struggled away from Coors Field, totaling 18 runs with a .190 average during a 2-7 stretch. Wilin Rosario (2 for 21), DJ LeMahieu (2 for 19) and Charlie Blackmon (3 for 18) are among those scuffling on the current trip.
It certainly hasn’t helped that Nolan Arenado has been out since Friday with a broken finger, while Gonzalez also has missed three-plus contests due to injury.
After grounding out as a pinch-hitter in Wednesday’s 6-3 loss at Philadelphia, Gonzalez is expected to start in the opener of this three-game set. He’s 0 for 11 over his last five games, but 5 for 13 in his career at Cleveland.
Colorado went 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, dropping two of three in the series when the Phillies rallied with four runs in the ninth inning.
"We’ve been lacking the big hit lately," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said.
Now the Rockies will have to face Kluber (5-3, 3.10 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 2.02 ERA in five May starts for the last-place Indians (24-30). He leads the majors with 48 strikeouts over that span.
The right-hander limited Baltimore to five hits with nine strikeouts over seven innings in Saturday’s 9-0 road victory.
"He’s obviously very comfortable using all of his pitches, attacking hitters the right way and he’s got some confidence going," pitching coach Mickey Callaway told the team’s official website.
Kluber has never faced the Rockies, though Justin Morneau went 5 for 12 with a homer against him during his time with Minnesota. Morneau homered and doubled Wednesday after totaling four hits over his prior eight contests.
Colorado’s Juan Nicasio (5-2, 3.61) will try to build on his last outing Saturday when he gave up two hits over six scoreless innings in a 3-1 win at Atlanta. The right-hander pitched around four walks and had five strikeouts.
He didn’t fare well in his only career start in Cleveland, surrendering six runs over 4 2-3 innings in an 8-7 victory in June 2011.
Jason Kipnis will try to snap an 0-for-15 slide after going hitless in Wednesday’s 3-2 road loss to the Chicago White Sox. The All-Star second baseman missed about a month due to a strained right oblique.
The Indians have totaled seven runs with one homer during their four-game skid. They’ll try to get things turned around at home, where they put up 22 runs with four homers to sweep Detroit from May 19-21.
Michael Brantley, who is 2 for 3 against Nicasio, has been a bright spot with a .393 average during a 14-game hitting streak.
The Indians have dropped five of the last six meetings, including two of three at Progressive Field in June 2011.