Tough Times

Things couldn't be going any worse for the Cleveland Indians lately, and opposing the major league-leading Tampa Bay Rays won't make ending their struggles any easier.

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The reeling Indians will try to avoid losing 11 consecutive games for the first time in more than 77 years on Thursday, when they open a four-game home set against surging Andy Sonnanstine and the Rays.

Oddsmakers from have made Cleveland -113  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 76% of bets for this game have been placed on Tampa Bay +103 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Cleveland (37-53) suffered its 10th straight loss Wednesday, an 8-6 defeat at Detroit to conclude a miserable 0-8 road trip. The Indians led 6-1 before allowing five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.

"The effort is there," manager Eric Wedge told the Indians' official Web site. "The work is there. Respecting the game and being a good teammate - that's there. What's not translating is consistent performance from game time until that last pitch is thrown."

The Indians, once expected to contend in the AL Central, have now fallen into last place, 16 games behind the division-leading Chicago White Sox. They now will try to prevent losing 11 in a row for the first time since their franchise-record 12-game slide from May 7-21, 1931.

Though not as significant as Cleveland's slump, Tampa Bay (55-35) has dropped its last three games, including a 10-inning, 2-1 loss at the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

The Rays managed only five hits and went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, dropping to 2-for-28 (.071) in RBI situations during their losing streak - their longest since dropping four in a row April 6-9.

"This is not adversity, this is just a couple of games where we haven't put much together offensively," designated hitter Cliff Floyd told the Rays' official Web site. "When you're playing good teams, you have to score runs."

They'll try for a better offensive showing behind Sonnanstine (10-3, 4.31 ERA), who tries to win his fifth straight decision.

The Rays have won each of the right-hander's last seven outings, a stretch during which he has gone 4-0 with a 3.15 ERA. Sonnanstine pitched seven five-hit innings Saturday to earn a 3-0 home victory over Kansas City.

"You ask our players, I know we always feel we have a really good chance to win on the night that he pitches," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "There's certain pitchers that players play behind and they feel this guy is going to win somehow, and that matters. He's one of those guys."

In his only appearance against the Indians, Sonnanstine yielded three runs over seven innings of a 10-2 loss at Cleveland on July 2, 2007.

Rays first baseman Carlos Pena homered in Wednesday's loss, and his batting .333 (8-for-24) with three homers and nine RBIs over his last six games. In 58 career contests versus the Indians, Pena has 20 homers - his most against any opponent - and 38 RBIs.

Pena has never faced Cleveland starter Aaron Laffey (4-5, 3.49), who has also never faced Tampa Bay.

The left-hander escaped without a decision on Saturday after giving up four runs and five hits, while walking a career-high four over five innings at Minnesota. The Indians went on to lose the game 9-6.

Laffey has earned all of his wins this season at Progressive Field, going 4-3 with a 2.15 ERA in eight starts there.

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