Tribe Cling to 1st

A disappointing defeat and the loss of a top power hitter may have thrown the Cleveland Indians off track. Completing a winning road trip might get them back on it.

With the possibility they'll be missing Travis Hafner, the Indians look to maintain their slim AL Central lead Thursday when they face Mark Buehrle and the Chicago White Sox to wrap up a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.

Cleveland (64-50) has dropped 10 of 16, but still holds a half-game lead over second-place Detroit in the Central. The Tigers also have been slumping, losing 10 of 13.

The Indians blew one-run leads in the eighth and 12th innings Wednesday, losing 6-4 in 13 innings to the White Sox (53-60).

Oddsmakers from have made Chicago -128 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 84% of bets for this game have been placed on Chicago -128 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Besides missing a chance to win three straight games for the first time since early July, Cleveland lost Hafner in the sixth inning due to tightness in his left knee. The star slugger is batting .254 with 18 homers and 70 RBIs.

"We're going to have to see how he is tomorrow," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He's day-to-day right now. I'm not quite sure what to expect until we get here tomorrow. You could see that he was hobbling after that second at-bat."

If they can overcome the potential absence of Hafner to win Thursday, the Indians would finish their road trip 4-3. They could use some momentum before returning home to face the surging New York Yankees for three games this weekend, followed by two with the Tigers next week.

The Indians draw a tough starter in Buehrle (9-6, 3.07 ERA), who has given up more than three earned runs only once in his last 11 outings. He will be trying to win three straight starts for the first time this season after going eight innings in each of his last two, and allowing three runs in Friday's 7-4 win at Detroit.

"I felt a lot better today than I have in a while," said Buehrle, who was coming off a 2-0 win over Toronto on July 28. "I made a lot more pitches tonight that I did the last game."

Buehrle is 8-10 with a 4.48 ERA in 27 career outings - 26 starts - against the Indians, but is 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA in two starts against them this season.

"When you have a pitcher like that," manager Ozzie Guillen said, "you go out there and play good."

The White Sox have won five six, including a three-game weekend sweep of the Tigers.

Juan Uribe, batting a disappointing .219 this season, hit a game-winning two-run homer Wednesday after making errors in the 10th and 12th innings.

"I'm glad I'm the one who came through. It might have been different if I had made those plays," he said.

The White Sox will be up against rookie starter Aaron Laffey (0-1, 5.06), who made an impressive major league debut Saturday. He allowed three runs in 5 1-3 innings, but was saddled with the 3-2 loss in Minnesota.

Despite the result, the 22-year-old lefty - the youngest Cleveland starter to debut since a 20-year-old C.C. Sabathia made his first appearance in April 2001 - impressed the Indians enough to remain in the rotation.

"He did a great job for the first time out, gave us every opportunity to win the ballgame," Wedge said.

The defeat was Laffey's first since May 28, when he lost in his second start for Triple-A Buffalo after a promotion from Double-A Akron. He went a combined 11-4 with a 2.99 ERA for the two minor league clubs.

by: Michael Cash - – Email Us

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