Struggling starters toe rubber when Indians host Jays
CLEVELAND — Marco Estrada and Trevor Bauer, two pitchers in the middle of disappointing seasons, will be the mound opponents Friday night when the Toronto Blue Jays open a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
It might be hard to find two pitchers who have struggled more in their recent starts than Estrada (4-6, 5.33 ERA) and Bauer (7-8, 5.59).
Estrada’s last win came May 27. In eight starts since, he is 2-6 with a 9.50 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .344.
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In his last two starts, Bauer is 0-2 with an 11.13 ERA. His last outing was a 7-3 loss at Oakland on Sunday in which Bauer matched the shortest outing of his career — 2/3 inning.
Bauer threw a whopping 43 pitches. He gave up four runs on three hits and three walks, and he was removed after eight batters.
That was loss No. 3 for the Indians on their dreadful West Coast trip coming out of the All-Star break. The Indians went 1-5 on the trek, in which all six games were against the last-place Athletics and San Francisco Giants.
The Indians returned to Cleveland with their lead in the AL Central down to one-half game over Minnesota. Nothing is going right for the Indians at the moment. Their hitting has been spotty and their defense leaky, and their vaunted bullpen has struggled. Four of their last six losses have been charged to the bullpen.
“They can handle it,” manager Terry Francona said of his relievers’ collective slump. “They’re a tough group. But when you’re playing games like we have, every run is so magnified.”
A bounce-back start by Bauer on Friday would help. In his last start against Toronto on May 8, Bauer was the losing pitcher in a 4-2 setback. Bauer pitched six innings, giving up four runs on six hits, with six strikeouts and three walks. In five career appearances (four starts) against the Blue Jays, Bauer is 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA.
Estrada’s last start came Sunday — a 6-5 Toronto loss to Detroit. Estrada, who received a no-decision, threw 94 pitches and made it through just 3 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on five hits, with five strikeouts and four walks.
Estrada is 0-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two career starts vs. Cleveland.
Toronto is expected to activate reliever Joe Smith on Friday. Smith, who is 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 34 appearances with the Jays, was placed on the 10-day disabled list June 21 with right shoulder inflammation. Smith was expected to be activated Wednesday, but he wasn’t ready.
“We thought he originally was going to (be activated Wednesday), but he needed one more (rehab) outing,” Toronto manager John Gibbons told the Toronto Star.
That outing came with Triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday. In three rehab appearances, Smith pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up one run and three hits, walking none and striking out three.
Smith’s return Friday will come against his former teammates. He pitched with Cleveland from 2009 to 2013.
The Indians are also expected to make a roster move Friday involving a reliever. Left-hander Boone Logan strained a lat muscle while pitching Wednesday in San Francisco. He is expected to be placed on the disabled list Friday.