Duel in Cleveland
C.C. Sabathia won the AL Cy Young award last season, but didn't look like he belonged in the Cleveland Indians' rotation in his first four starts of 2008, as the Indians struggled out of the gate.
Since Sabathia returned to form in his latest start, however, Cleveland has done the same.
Sabathia will look to extend the Indians' winning streak - which he helped begin - to a major-league best six games on Sunday against the visiting New York Yankees.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made New York –112 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 94% of bets for this game have been placed on New York -112 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.
Cleveland (12-12) won the AL Central last season and was one victory away from making its first World Series appearance since 1997. With Sabathia at the top of an impressive rotation, the Indians expected to be one of baseball's best teams once again in 2008, but they started the season 7-12.
Sabathia (1-3, 10.13 ERA) was one of the primary culprits for Cleveland's early-season struggles, going 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA in his first four starts. He gave up nine runs twice in that span, after allowing that many runs only twice in his first 223 major-league starts.
When he last took the mound, though, Sabathia looked more like one of baseball's best pitchers. He lasted six shutout innings on Tuesday at Kansas City, striking out 11 in the Indians' 15-1 win.
"He was back to his old self," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge told the team's official Web site. "You could just tell from the first inning on - he was in control of the ballgame."
The Indians have followed Sabathia's lead and won their last five games. They've given up only 14 runs during their streak, and have limited the high-powered Yankees to seven runs in taking the first two of their four-game set at Progressive Field.
Red-hot Victor Martinez sent New York (12-13) to its third straight loss in the series' second game. Cleveland's All-Star catcher, batting .432 with seven RBIs over his last 11 games, had the game-winning hit on Saturday, a bases-loaded single in the ninth that brought home Grady Sizemore and gave the Indians a 4-3 victory.
"When Victor came up,'' outfielder David Dellucci said, "we knew something good was going to happen.''
Martinez is hitting .421 with two homers and 11 RBIs in his last 10 games against the Yankees.
Sabathia, meanwhile, hasn't fared as well against New York. He's 1-7 with a 7.13 ERA in eight starts against the Yankees, although he hasn't faced them in the regular season since 2004.
He did, however, pick up a win in Game 1 of the Indians' AL division series against New York last fall.
The pitcher who took the loss in that game was Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang (4-0, 3.94), who was on the losing end twice as Cleveland moved on to the ALCS. In two starts, he pitched just 5 2-3 innings, allowing 12 runs.
"The two losses make me want to do even better this year," Wang said. "I want to make the coaches trust me even more in the future."
Wang has delivered solid performances in four of his five starts in 2008.
The right-hander gave up three runs in six innings on Tuesday in a 9-5 win over the Chicago White Sox. It was Wang's 50th career win in his 85th start, making him the fastest pitcher to 50 victories since Dwight Gooden did it in 82 starts back in 1986.
"That's pretty good company," manager Joe Girardi said. "Obviously, (Wang has) been very good since he got here."