(AP) — Corey Kluber is on the verge of his longest string of losing starts in his career and his attempt to avoid that unwanted streak will come against a Baltimore Orioles lineup that’s been one of the best in the majors for the past two weeks.
While trying to add to Kluber’s woes, the Orioles also seek their 16th win in 21 contests in Friday night’s opener to a three-game series.
Kluber (3-9, 3.65 ERA) has been inconsistent in his first season after winning the AL Cy Young Award and is 0-4 with a 4.00 ERA in his last four starts. He gave up four runs and a season-high four walks in seven innings in a 4-1 defeat to Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Kluber’s teammates have hardly aided him with a combined three runs of support during his losing streak, and his 2.17 run-support average is the lowest in the majors among qualifying players. He also lost four consecutive starts April 22-May 7 while opening the season 0-5.
“It’d be one thing if his ERA was a 6.00 or something like that right now, but he’s got pretty solid numbers,” outfielder David Murphy told MLB’s official website. “His record looks bad, but (that’s) because baseball is a team game when it comes to that.
The Indians (33-38) will try to help their ace with a performance like Wednesday’s 8-2 win over Detroit. They had 13 hits in that game and totaled 25 in their final two against the Tigers after batting .219 in their previous nine.
Jason Kipnis extended his hit streak to 19 games, tying Washington’s Wilson Ramos for the longest in the majors this season, and went 5 for 10 with two doubles versus Baltimore earlier this month. He’ll next try to provide some more assistance against the Orioles (38-34), who are batting .300 while averaging 6.7 runs in its last 15 contests.
They had 14 hits in an 8-6 win in Boston on Thursday with seven coming in a six-run fourth.
Manny Machado was among eight starters who hit safely and is batting .427 with six homers and 17 RBIs in his last 18 games, beginning with two in Cleveland from June 6-7. Machado had two hits in each of the final two games in that series, and Baltimore took two of three from the Indians.
The Orioles have alternated wins and losses in their last seven home matchups with Cleveland.
Wei-Yin Chen (3-4, 2.89) played a part in one of those defeats, giving up five runs in 6 2-3 innings May 22, 2014. He yielded one run in seven innings in his most recent start against the Indians, a 2-1 loss in 11 innings Aug. 15.
Chen is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his three starts this month and fanned nine in eight innings in a 4-0 win over visiting Philadelphia on June 15. Chen was then sent to Class A for a start – a move criticized by the left-hander and reportedly agent Scott Boras – and manager Buck Showalter said it was because he complained of being tired in his prior start.
“I am in excellent physical shape. I feel great and I am ready for my next start. I just pitched 8 innings of shutout baseball … I am disappointed my routine is being interrupted,” Chen tweeted on Monday, two days after pitching three scoreless innings for the Frederick Keys.
Kluber went 1-0 with a 0.61 ERA in his two starts against Baltimore last season and pitched seven scoreless innings in his lone game at Camden Yards on May 24.
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