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The Cleveland Indians were waiting for C.C. Sabathia to look like a Cy Young winner, and his latest start was an encouraging sign he's headed in the right direction.
Their offense may be doing the same.
Coming off their highest offensive output in nearly a year, the Indians will look to keep rolling on Wednesday when they play the middle game of a three-game series with the slumping Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Cleveland -144 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 94% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland -144 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.
Cleveland (8-12) has been getting good pitching lately after struggling through the first 15 games of the season. The Indians have allowed only seven runs in their last five games, and finally got Sabathia - who had started 0-3 - a victory on Tuesday, when he pitched six scoreless innings against the Royals (9-11).
But Cleveland's offense hadn't been delivering. The Indians had scored four runs or fewer in 13 of their first 19 games, and scored only once in their last two games.
Their first game against Kansas City, however, was a different story. Cleveland scored 15 runs on 17 hits - both season highs - and got a big night from the bottom of its order on the way to a 15-1 victory, its highest run total since scoring 15 on May 15 against Minnesota.
"Individually and collectively, everyone needed a night like this,'' said third baseman Casey Blake. "It does wonders for your confidence."
Blake - the Indians' No. 8 hitter - came into Tuesday hitting just .179, but had four hits, including a grand slam, and six RBIs. Right fielder Franklin Gutierrez, meanwhile, was batting .203 coming in, but had three hits and three RBIs from the ninth spot.
Fausto Carmona (2-1, 1.96 ERA) will get the ball on Wednesday looking to build off his most effective start of the season. Carmona, who like Sabathia won 19 games last season, wasn't allowing many runs early in 2008, but he was struggling with his control.
The 24-year-old right-hander walked a major-league leading 17 batters in his first three outings, but allowed just one free pass on Thursday, pitching 6 2-3 innings in an 11-1 win over Detroit.
"I learn something from every start, whether it's good or bad," said Carmona, who was 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA last season against Kansas City. "My arm was getting out in front of my body and I worked hard in the bullpen to adjust."
The Royals have dropped five straight games, and after their young pitching staff performed impressively early on, some rough starts and a punchless offense have led to their current losing streak.
Kansas City has scored only 64 runs through 20 games, 12 runs fewer than any other AL team.
One positive sign for the Royals on Tuesday was getting leadoff hitter David DeJesus back at the top of the lineup. The center fielder has been bothered by a sprained ankle and a jammed toe that have limited him to only five starts since opening day, and he's hit safely in each.
"It'd be nice to have him as a mainstay in the lineup," manager Trey Hillman told the team's official Web site.
The Royals will hope Brett Tomko (1-2, 3.60) can give them a quality start after they've allowed 46 runs in their past five losses. Tomko yielded only two runs in 11.0 innings in his first two starts, but gave up five in seven innings in a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday.
Tomko has made three starts in his career against Cleveland, but only one since 1999. He's 1-1 with a 3.92 ERA in those appearances.
Third baseman Alex Gordon, who leads Kansas City with three homers and has a team-high tying nine RBIs, is 7-for-14 lifetime against Carmona.