OAKLAND, Calif. -- Having battled three tough games with the American League East leaders and with a four-game war with the West's best coming up later this week, the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians got a breather in a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics that begins Monday night.
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco will seek to improve upon his already impressive road numbers when he duels A's rookie Andrew Triggs in the series opener.
The Indians arrive in Oakland having won eight of their last 11, including two of three in a tense series with the Blue Jays over the weekend.
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All three games were decided by one run, with the Indians gaining the upper hand Sunday on Jose Ramirez's two-run homer in the eighth inning.
Ramirez is one of the hottest hitters in baseball. He has reached base at least once in 27 straight games, during which he's hit .377.
"For whatever reasons, he's able to come through in those spots more often than not," Indians pitcher Corey Kluber gushed of Ramirez after Sunday's dramatics. "I don't think there's anyone else we'd rather have up in that situation."
And there's nobody the Indians would rather have pitching on the road than Carrasco. He's 5-3 away from home with a 1.97 ERA that's second-best in the AL (to Texas' Cole Hamels' 1.91) and third-best in all of baseball (Colorado's Tyler Chatwood is No. 1 at 1.82) among pitchers who have made eight or more road starts.
Carrasco has only one win to show for his last five starts, but it's worth noting that four of those five games have been played at home.
He's allowed three or more runs just twice in nine road starts this season.
Oakland fans already have gotten a taste for Carrasco's road brilliance. He pitched a two-hit complete game in Oakland last July, winning 3-1.
It's the only time he's pitched in Oakland. He's 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three games, including two starts, against the A's in his career.
Carrasco also is scheduled to pitch Saturday in Texas, when the Indians (71-51) could find themselves battling the Rangers (73-52) for the best record in the AL.
The Indians swept three straight from the A's in an earlier series in Cleveland, dominating Oakland to the tune of 5-3, 6-3 and 8-0.
Carrasco did not pitch in the series.
Neither did Triggs, who will be making a fifth start in search of his first major-league.
He's is coming off the best of his first four starts, having held the Rangers to two hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings in a 5-4 loss last Tuesday.
The 27-year-old has never faced the Indians. He takes an 0-1 record and 4.98 ERA to the mound, having pitched a total of 21 games this season.
The A's are coming off a 1-5 trip to Texas and Chicago, during which tempers flared on Friday after a 9-0 win over the White Sox.
Billy Butler and Danny Valencia reportedly scuffled out of reporters view in the clubhouse. Butler was injured to the point where he did not play Saturday or Sunday.
"No comment," Valencia responded to the San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported the incident, after Sunday's loss. "What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse."
Valencia got two hits in Saturday's game, his sixth straight with multiple hits, before being given Sunday off.