Despite their inconsistent play recently, the Cleveland Indians are still in the hunt for AL Central supremacy.
The Indians target a series win over the Toronto Blue Jays Sunday afternoon in the rubber match of a three-game set from Rogers Centre and have alternated wins and losses over the past six games. At three games behind the Chicago White Sox for the division lead, Cleveland dropped an 11-9 decision on Saturday and saw Ubaldo Jimenez get rocked for eight runs in only 2 1/3 innings. He allowed seven hits, including two home runs, and walked four.
"I just couldn't get my pitches over the plate," said Jimenez. "I fell behind in the count a lot, and once I tried to pitch inside, they just took advantage of it."
Michael Brantley, Shelley Duncan and Casey Kotchman all homered for Cleveland, which recorded a 1-0 win in Friday's series opener and will visit Tampa Bay for four games after today's tilt. Brantley has a 12-game hitting streak with six multi-hit efforts in that span. He has three hits in each of his last three games.
Derek Lowe hopes to string back-to-back wins together when he toes the rubber for the Indians this afternoon. Lowe ended a five-start winless (0-3) stretch his last time out in a 12-3 pounding of the LA Angels of Anaheim, as he yielded three runs and 11 hits in six innings.
Lowe, who has allowed at least three runs in each of his last five starts, is 8-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 17 starts this season. The veteran right-hander started his first season in Cleveland with a 6-1 mark and kicked off the 2012 campaign in a 4-3 win over Toronto. He allowed two unearned runs in seven innings to improve to 7-9 in 42 games (11 starts) with a 4.37 ERA against the Jays.
Toronto hopes to win its first series since taking two of three at Miami from June 22-24, and scored 11 runs on Saturday for the second time in three games.
The Blue Jays, who recorded an 11-9 win last Sunday versus the White Sox, got two home runs and three RBI from Edwin Encarnacion. Adam Lind finished 4-for-5 with four RBI and Yunel Escobar homered for Toronto, which has won two of three since losing three in a row and five of seven.
"The potential for us to do this almost every day with this lineup is pretty high," said Lind. "To score eight in one inning, it takes contributions from one through nine. We need to stay away from shutouts as much as possible, but when we can turn it on like this we'll be successful."
Encarnacion, who just singed a contract extension with the club, has 25 home runs this season. His career high was 26 back in 2008 with Cincinnati.
Aaron Laffey allowed eight hits and four runs over five innings for his first win of the season. Toronto will hit the road for six games against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox after today's contest.
The Blue Jays will hand the ball to Carlos Villanueva Sunday and he will make his third start of the season. Villanueva is 3-0 with a 3.05 earned run average in 24 games (2 starts) this season and threw six scoreless innings in a 4-1 win over Kansas City on July 4. He also fanned seven batters.
Villanueva, a right-hander, has faced the Indians twice in relief this season and owns no record and a 1.59 ERA in four career games (1 start) against them.
Toronto took two of three from the Tribe earlier in the year.