The Cleveland Indians attempt to string three straight dominant pitching performances together and they have the right guy on the mound to do it Sunday for the finale of a four-game series at the Tampa Bay Rays. Corey Kluber goes after his third consecutive complete-game effort after starters Carlos Carrasco (Friday) and Mike Clevinger (Saturday) combined for 15 scoreless innings in a pair of shutouts for the Indians.
Cleveland leads the American League Central by 4 ½ games after newly acquired Jay Bruce knocked in his first two runs with the team during Saturday’s 3-0 victory, and Kluber is 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA since the All-Star break. The Rays, who send Austin Pruitt to the mound Sunday, are still just one game out of the AL’s second wild card despite an offense that has been shut out five times in eight games - the first time that has happened to an AL team since 1978 - during which they have just two wins and eight total runs. Logan Morrison is 5-for-11 in the series for Tampa Bay, which is last in the majors with 85 runs scored since the All-Star break after finishing 11th in the first half. “It’s not one or two guys, it’s a complete lineup that’s spiraling a little bit,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters. “We need that big inning to turn something around for us.”
TV: 1:10 p.m. ET, TBS, STO (Cleveland), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Corey Kluber (10-3, 2.65 ERA) vs. Rays RH Austin Pruitt (6-3, 5.14)
Kluber has lost just once since returning from the disabled list on June 1 and allowed two or fewer runs in 10 of his last 13 starts. The 31-year-old Alabama native has fanned at least eight batters in 13 straight contests as well, recording double digits in each of the past five (60 total). Trevor Plouffe (13-for-46, three homers, 10 RBIs) and Evan Longoria (7-for-20, one homer) have caused trouble for Kluber, who is 3-2 with a 2.23 ERA in seven games against the Rays.
Pruitt faced three of the best pitchers in the AL since joining the rotation - Masahiro Tanaka (New York Yankees), Dallas Keuchel (Houston) and Chris Sale (Boston) - and now faces the 2014 AL Cy Young winner. The 27-year-old Texan went 1-2 in those contests - permitting just one run combined in the last two - and owns a 2.66 ERA in four starts overall. Pruitt is 3-2 with a 4.43 ERA in 10 appearances (one start) at home and will face the Indians for the first time in his career.
1. Longoria (thumb) missed Saturday’s contest but could be back in the lineup for the series finale.
2. Cleveland 2B Jason Kipnis (hamstring) has missed the last two games, but could start again as early as Sunday.
3. Rays RHP Alex Colome is tied for the major-league lead with 34 saves and owns 71 in his career, tied with Danys Baez for third in franchise history.
PREDICTION: Indians 7, Rays 1