Indians return home to open set with Nationals

The Cleveland Indians are back in the friendly confines of Progressive Field, where they'll begin a nine-game homestand Friday with the first of three straight games versus the Washington Nationals.

The Indians are glad to be back in Cleveland after going just 2-7 on a nine- game road trip. The journey ended on a positive note, as the Indians won the last two matchups of a three-game set against the Texas Rangers.

In Wednesday's 5-2 win at the Ballpark in Arlington, starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez got back over the .500 mark (5-4) and held the Rangers to a run and four hits in five innings of work. He did walk four batters and struck out four for the Indians, who needed five relievers to preserve Cleveland's second win in a row since losing eight straight.

"Ubaldo got us to a point where it was manageable," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "(Bryan) Shaw was very good. Anytime you limit them to one or two runs, you're doing something pretty good."

Jason Kipnis homered and finished with three hits and Mike Aviles belted a two-run homer in the win. The Indians were able to pull within 4 1/2 games of Detroit for first place in the AL Central and will also welcome Kansas City and Minnesota to Progressive Field.

Justin Masterson has pitched on the road in his last two starts and is most likely glad to be back home, where he is 5-1 in seven starts to go along with a 2.36 earned run average. Masterson, though, is only 1-3 with a 6.04 ERA in his past four outings and lost at Detroit on Sunday, allowing four runs and six hits in seven innings of a 4-1 setback.

Masterson, who gave up seven runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings at Yankee Stadium on June 3, fell to 8-5 in 14 starts with a 3.68 ERA. He has lasted at least six innings in 13 appearances this season and faced Washington just once in his career in a relief role.

The Nationals will resume their nine-game road trip Friday and took two of three at Colorado to open the trek. They have won two in a row and four of five games, including Thursday's 5-4 win over the Rockies at Coors Field.

Ryan Zimmerman had an RBI double and later scored on Ian Desmond's infield hit during the eighth inning to snap a 3-3 tie. Zimmerman homered as well and collected three hits for the Nationals, while Desmond went 4-for-4 with a run scored.

"We believe in ourselves and we know we can get it done with the bats," said Desmond.

Ross Detwiler drew the start for the Nationals and did not come away with a decision, as he yielded three runs and six hits in five innings. Craig Stammen spun two scoreless innings of relief for the win and closer Rafael Soriano worked out of a ninth inning jam to post his 17th save.

Not only did Washington stay on track, the club found out that staff ace Stephen Strasburg has been cleared to start Sunday against the Tribe. On the disabled list with a balky lower back, Strasburg tossed a simulated game Tuesday and feels ready to return.

"I mean, he's never satisfied. He didn't have the pinpoint control that he expects out there," Nats manager Davey Johnson said on the club's website. "I think he attributes it more to the light air. Steve's always a perfectionist."

The Nationals will visit Philadelphia after this series with the Indians and are scheduled to send Gio Gonzalez to the mound Friday. Gonzalez hasn't prevailed since May 5 at Pittsburgh and is just 0-1 with a 2.27 ERA in his last six starts. Gonzalez last toed the rubber Saturday in a 4-3 loss to Minnesota and did not figure into the decision, charged with three runs -- two earned -- and five hits in six innings.

Gonzalez, who is 3-3 in 13 starts with a 3.59 ERA, has dominated Cleveland in his career, going 5-0 with a sparkling 0.72 ERA across six starts and 37 1/3 innings. The lefty is 1-1 in six road assignments this season.

Washington and Cleveland are meeting for the first time since the Indians took two of three matchups at home back in 2010.