Indians playing best baseball of season
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians, who are playing their best baseball of the season, will send former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the mound Tuesday in the second contest of their three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Tampa Bay, in turn, will send rookie Blake Snell to the hill.
Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on SportsTime Ohio
Cleveland goes into the Tuesday's tilt having won four games in a row overall and nine straight at Progressive Field, including a 7-4 victory on Monday night.
Tampa Bay enters the contest with one outfielder headed for the disabled list and another a possibility, plus a key reliever who is in a major slump.
Kluber (6-7, 4.23 ERA) is coming off one of the worst starts of his career, which came on Wednesday. In a 9-4 loss at Kansas City, Kluber gave up a career-high eight runs and nine hits in five innings.
Kluber has enjoyed success versus the Rays. In six career appearances against Tampa Bay, he is 2-2 with a 2.75 ERA.
Despite that hiccup by Kluber in his last start, the Indians continue to lean heavily on their starting pitching to keep them in first place in the American League Central Division. The starting rotation of Kluber, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin has been very consistent.
One bullpen problem that appears to have been worked out is eighth-inning set-up man Bryan Shaw, who has bounced back from a handful of ugly appearances over the last three weeks to pitch effectively. In the Indians' win on Monday, Shaw relieved Tomlin to start the eighth inning of a 4-4 game.
Shaw was facing the first three batters in the Rays' lineup, Logan Forsythe, Brad Miller and Evan Longoria and struck out all three of them. After allowing a run in four of five appearances, with at least two baserunners in each of those appearances, Shaw has retired eight of the nine batters he has faced in his last two outings, six of them on strikeouts.
"He's an important guy for us because in order of us to be good, he needs to pitch good," manager Terry Francona said.
The Rays will have at least one and possibly two new players for Tuesday's game. Tampa Bay will recall a player from the minors to replace outfielder Mikie Mahtook, who suffered a broken left hand after getting hit by a pitch from Tomlin in Monday's contest.
Steve Pearce suffered a strained hamstring late in Monday's game and manager Kevin Cash said the outfielder will be evaluated on Tuesday before a decision is made on whether he will be placed on the disabled list.
The struggling reliever is Erasmo Ramirez, who is as important to the Rays' bullpen as Shaw is to the Indians' group. With the score tied 4-4 in Monday's game Ramirez faced five batters in the eighth inning and gave up three runs on as many hits, including two home runs. In his last 16 appearances, Ramirez is 1-4 with a 6.23 ERA while opposing teams are hitting .349 against him.
"We're concerned," Cash said. "He's played a big part in a lot of our wins but now he's in a rut. We need to get him fresh."
Snell (0-1, 2.16 ERA) will be making his third major league start. In a 6-4 loss to Seattle on June 16, Snell pitched 3 1/3 innings, giving up five runs, one earned, and eight hits, with three strikeouts and one walk.