The Cleveland Indians have a big problem – hitting with runners in scoring position. If they don’t rectify the situation soon, even the second wild card spot might soon be out of reach. The Indians visit the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday in the third of their four-game series. Cleveland is 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position but managed to win Monday’s series opener 3-2 despite going 2-for-12. The Rays prevailed 4-2 on Tuesday to move into a tie with the Detroit Tigers for the final wild card spot, which has seven teams within two games of each other chasing Major League Baseball’s latest creation. The Indians are three teams one-half game behind Tampa Bay and Detroit.
Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson, who is the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year, has lost his last four starts – including a 3-1 setback at Cleveland on July 5. He will oppose the Indians’ Justin Masterson, who is 1-7 with a 7.69 ERA against the Rays, including a 10-3 loss on July 6.
Indians Rays Betting
When: 7:10 PM ET, Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, STO (Cleveland), Sun Sports (Tampa Bay)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Justin Masterson (6-8, 4.14 ERA) vs. Rays RH Jeremy Hellickson (4-6, 3.48)
Masterson rebounded from his horrendous performance against Tampa Bay (4 1/3 innings, eight runs, nine hits, four walks) with one of his best outings of the season when he scattered five hits in seven shutout innings in a 1-0 victory at Toronto on Friday. He has won four of his last six starts. The Tampa Bay roster is hitting .349 against Masterson, with Carlos Pena 6-for-18 (two homers), and B.J. Upton (.463) and Luke Scott (.421) each homering once.
Hellickson is firmly entrenched in a sophomore slump, although he hasn’t pitched terribly in his last three starts. He allowed three runs and five hits in six innings in a 3-1 loss to Boston on Friday after yielding two runs and five hits in six innings against Cleveland. Hellickson pitched seven shutout innings in his only other appearance against the Indians, whose roster is hitting .175 against him. Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo, though, are each 2-for-5 with a homer.
1. Cleveland reliever Vinnie Pestano leads the major leagues with 25 holds; Tampa Bay’s Joel Peralta is fifth with 20.
2. Tampa Bay 1B Carlos Pena, who is hitting .198, homered for the first time in nine games Tuesday – his 14th of the season.
3. Indians SS Asdrubal Cabrera is 2-for-29 in his last seven games.