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Slumping clubs square off in Cleveland

10:00 AM, Jun 15, 2012   |    comments
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A pair of skidding second-place teams get together tonight at Progressive Field, where the Cleveland Indians host the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game weekend interleague series.

Both the Pirates and the Indians occupy the No. 2 spot in their respective Central divisions, with Pittsburgh sitting three games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the National League and the Indians 1 1/2 games off the pace of the Chicago White Sox in the American.

Neither team did anything to help itself in the midweek interleague series that ended Thursday, with the Pirates losing a third straight game in Baltimore while the Indians were dropping their third in a row at Cincinnati.

Pittsburgh tries to end the skid with its breakout right-hander of 2012, 27- year-old James McDonald, who's not lost in five starts since May 11.

The native Californian was drafted by Los Angeles in 2002, but has emerged with the Pirates - winning a career-high nine games last season and beginning this year with five wins in seven decisions.

He tossed six innings, allowed four hits and one earned run in his most recent victory, a 6-5 win at Milwaukee on June 3.

In five starts since the loss to the Astros, he's worked at least six innings three times and given up three or fewer earned runs in all five outings.

McDonald, who's 3-1 in five road starts, has never faced the Indians.

Cleveland goes with another 27-year-old right-hander, Justin Masterson, who's dropped three straight starts since a win over Detroit on May 24.

He allowed a run on five hits in seven innings against in that outing, but is 0-3 since while giving up 12 runs and 21 hits in 19 innings against Kansas City, Minnesota and St. Louis.

Masterson is coming off a career-high season in wins as well after a 12-10 mark in 2011 in a career-high 216 innings.

He's got no-decisions in two previous meetings with Pittsburgh and is 1-3 this spring in eight home starts.

On Thursday in Baltimore, former Pirate Stave Pearce put together a career outing with his first homer of the season and five RBI in a 12-6 Orioles victory.

Erik Bedard (4-7), making his second start at Camden Yards since being traded from Baltimore in 2008, was tagged for seven runs in only 3 1/3 innings in defeat.

In Cincinnati, Brandon Phillips had a home run among three hits and knocked in four runs as the Reds hammered the Indians, 12-5. Josh Tomlin (3-4) allowed six runs on 10 hits and two walks in just four innings to take the loss for Cleveland, which has dropped five of its last seven.

Shin-Soo Choo homered twice in defeat.

The teams have split 30 interleague games since they began meeting in 1997, though the Indians won all three meetings in 2011 at Progressive Field.

 

The Sports Network

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