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News » Indians-Tigers Preview 2009-05-03

Indians-Tigers Preview 2009-05-03

Indians-Tigers Preview 2009-05-03
A lack of run support has been a major factor in Cliff Lee's slow start, but given the way the Cleveland Indians are swinging the bats recently, he could get some help in his next outing.

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner takes the mound Sunday when the Indians close their three-game series against the Detroit Tigers.

After two mediocre starts to begin the season, Lee (1-3, 3.94 ERA) has been outstanding in his last three outings. In the past two, however, Cleveland (9-15) hasn't provided him with any support.

Lee allowed two runs over eight innings in a 2-0 loss to Kansas City on April 22 and had his best start of the season against Boston on Monday. He pitched eight scoreless innings in which he allowed five hits, struck out five and didn't walk a batter, but failed to receive a decision as the Indians lost 3-1 after Kerry Wood gave up a three-run homer in the ninth.

"I'm sure Cliff's frustrated, and we all feel it with him," Wood told the Indians' official Web site.

Despite failing to earn his second win, Lee was feeling good about the progress he's made since giving up seven runs in five innings in the season opener.

"I feel good where I'm at," Lee said. "I'm locating my pitches and I'm able to throw my offspeed pitches for strikes when I need to and balls when I need to."

Lee, 5-6 with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts against Detroit (12-11), will be hoping to take advantage of the Indians' hot bats. Cleveland's averaging 6.8 runs and hitting .309 in four games since Lee's last start. However, it's 2-2 in that stretch with the bullpen being charged with both losses, including Saturday's 9-7 defeat.

Trying to protect a one-run lead, Rafael Betancourt gave up three runs in the eighth inning, including a two-run homer to Curtis Granderson.

"That's been a struggle for us," manager Eric Wedge said. "I still have a lot of confidence in Rafael Betancourt, and I expect him to do the job the next time, but we need someone else to step up and help do the job in the seventh and eighth innings to get the ball to Kerry."

Detroit's win snapped a three-game losing streak.

"We came in with a three-game skid, and it looked like we might make it four," said Granderson, 4-for-8 in this series. "Now we've got a chance to win this series, and that's going to be big in this division."

Detroit goes for the series win as it hands the ball to Justin Verlander (1-2, 6.75), who like Lee knows what it's like to struggle after a career-best season.

Verlander won 35 games in 2006 and 2007, but lost 17 in 2008 and has gotten off to a frustrating start this season.

The right-hander, though, is coming off his best outing. He pitched seven scoreless innings against the New York Yankees on Monday, allowing seven hits while striking out nine in a 4-2 win.

"When he's ahead in the count, he's almost unhittable," catcher Gerald Laird said. "Tonight was the Justin we expect to see every night."

Verlander is 4-10 with a 6.70 ERA in 15 starts against the Indians, going 1-5 last season.

Brandon Inge looks to continue his success against Lee. He is batting .400 (12-for-30) off the left-hander, hitting two home runs.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 3, 2009

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