With a six-game homestand approaching against division rivals, the New York Yankees will try to get out of Cleveland on a positive note, as they close out a three-game set against the Indians on Sunday at Progressive Field.
Playing 15 games over .500 in their own ballpark, the Yankees have enjoyed the scenery in the Bronx which has helped the team move out to a 3 1/2 game lead in the American League East over Tampa Bay, but the same cannot be said for being out on the road, or at least during this current trip which has seen the club drop four of five after losing to the Tribe on Saturday, 3-1.
The Yankees squandered a solid effort by starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda who went the distance but was still charged with his ninth setback of the campaign. Kuroda gave up the three runs on just four hits and a couple of walks, striking out six in eight innings of work.
"I just try to focus on whatever I can control," Kuroda said through an interpreter after the game. "Obviously those games, I have been in several times in my career. But I try to focus on whatever I can do and whatever I can control, and go from there."
Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano both logged a couple of hits for the Bronx Bombers, the former scoring the only run of the outing for the visitors as they dropped to 34-29 on the road in 2012.
"We didn't get the big hit today, but between (Justin) Masterson and the two relievers they threw out there, it's tough," said Mark Teixeira who plated Jeter in the sixth inning with a sacrifice fly. "Their eighth- and ninth- inning guys are two of the best in baseball, so it was one of those tough games."
In picking up his 10th win of the season, Masterson allowed just the one run on seven hits and a couple of walks, striking out six over 6 2/3 innings before giving way to Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez, the latter picking up his 33rd save of the season.
"It's been a long month," said Perez of a team that has won just five times in the last 26 outings. "I've never been through something like this. I was here in 2010 when we were pretty brutal, but we were brutal all year. [You] go from competing, and all of a sudden two weeks later, it's just a freefall. You really can't put your finger on it.
A month ago the Tribe were an even 50-50 on the season, but now the club is sporting the worst run differential (minus-131) in the AL and is sitting in fourth place in the Central Division, 15 1/2 games out of contention.
From an offensive standpoint on Saturday, Michael Brantley accounted for all three runs for the home team as he plated Jason Kipnis, Shin-Soo Choo and himself with a three-run home run to right center in the bottom of the first inning.
A winner in his last three decisions, Freddy Garcia tries to make it four in a row this afternoon as he takes the hill for the visiting Yankees. The right- hander, now two games over .500 for the season, actually failed to register a decision in his most recent outing on Monday when he clashed with Chicago.
Against the White Sox, the hurler lasted just 4 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on six hits and four walks, while striking out eight as New York suffered a 9-6 setback on the road.
Already 1-0 this season against the Indians, Garcia has a career mark of 8-6 with a 3.83 ERA in 23 previous matchups versus the club.
Countering for Cleveland will be Ubaldo Jimenez who has watched his ERA balloon to 5.59 through 143 1/3 innings of action in 2012. The right-hander has been largely ineffective for the last six weeks, winning just once in his last eight outings.
On Monday Jimenez gave up three runs to Seattle at Safeco Field, surrendering six hits -- two home runs -- while striking out eight over 5 2/3 innings, but he failed to factor into the decision.
Sporting a 5-3 record on his home turf this season, Jimenez lost his only previous meeting with the Yankees and is now 1-1 in his career in such matchups.
New York, now 4-1 in the season series versus the Indians, leads the AL in home runs with 194, 80 more than Cleveland has produced in the same number of games.