The high-octane offense the Cleveland Indians once displayed has gone cold of late and the club looks to end its punchless ways Wednesday afternoon against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Indians have scored a total of three runs in their last three games and dropped a 6-2 decision to the Phillies on Tuesday in the opener of a quick two-game series at Citizens Bank Park.
Cleveland, which was averaging almost six runs (5.6) in its past five games and previously outscored the Phillies, 20-2, in a two-game set a few weeks ago, couldn't get the bats going last night. Nick Swisher had a team-high two hits and Michael Brantley drove in a pair of runs for the Indians, who have dropped two straight since winning three in a row and 13 of 15.
"As a team, we've been pretty hot," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It was one of those games where I thought if we hang around here, that at one point we'd string a long inning together and we never did."
Scott Kazmir was on the mound for the Tribe and struggled through five innings, allowing four runs and six hits, including two homers.
"I was pretty much fighting myself the whole game," Kazmir said. "I never got into a rhythm."
The Indians couldn't prevent Phillies young starter Jonathan Pettibone from improving to 3-0, as he held the visitors to two runs in 6 2/3 innings. The Indians, who were coming off a split of a doubleheader with the New York Yankees and sit 1 1/2 games off the AL Central lead, look to leave the City of Brotherly Love on a high note before returning to Progressive Field for six games versus Seattle and division-leading Detroit.
Corey Kluber will take the mound for the Tribe Wednesday and he is 2-2 with a 5.64 earned run average in five games (3 starts).
Since opening the season 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three appearances, Kluber has lost back-to-back outings to Minnesota and Detroit. In a 10-4 loss against the Tigers on Friday, Kluber was banged around for a season-high eight runs on 11 hits over 4 2/3 innings.
"You just chalk it up as a bad one," Kluber said. "Everybody has their days."
The right-handed Kluber has given up 13 runs in his previous three trips to the hill and will face the Phillies for the first time.
Philadelphia will try to extend its winning streak to a season-high four straight games Wednesday and Pettibone kept his team on track to the displeasure of Francona.
"I think (Pettibone) did a good job, unfortunately," Francona said. "He kept us off balance a lot tonight. We didn't square up a ton of balls."
Pettibone has given up three runs or less in all five of his starts and received support from the offense. Kevin Frandsen and Domonic Brown both homered, while John Mayberry came through with a clutch two-run double in the fourth inning. Mayberry ended 3-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored for the Phillies, whose winning streak comes on the heels of a three-game skid.
The Phillies are now 3 1/2 games behind Atlanta for the NL East lead and will welcome Cincinnati to town for three games later this week. Phils second baseman Chase Utley got the night off to rest and should be back in the lineup Wednesday. Utley and the Phillies have an off-day Thursday.
"A day would be good for Ut," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We'll try to monitor him and get him off his feet at times."
Pegged to be an NL Cy Young candidate, Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels hasn't lived up to the hype. He hasn't received much support from his teammates either, but hopes that will change Wednesday versus the Tribe.
The Phillies have lost seven of Hamels' eight starts this season and he is 1-5 with a 4.18 earned run average. He has lost two straight starts, even though he allowed two runs in each, and was beaten by Arizona his last time out on Thursday in a 2-1 decision. Hamels gave up both runs and walked five batters in six innings.
"For me I have to go out and execute pitches," Hamels said. "Stop the walks. If that's where I really need the work, it's going to make me a more effective pitcher and that's what I have to focus on. I can't really take anything else, the results, from what's going on. I have to correct what I can correct and what is going to allow me to be a better player so I can go out and help the team get some wins."
Hamels, who has lasted at least six innings in six straight outings, has an ERA of 2.41 in his last 41 innings pitched since allowing a combined 13 runs in his first two starts. The southpaw and 2008 World Series MVP is 0-3 in four home starts and the Phillies have scored no more than three runs in five of his previous six appearances.
Hamels lost his only start against the Indians back on June 18, 2007, when he was tagged for six runs and eight hits in five innings of a 10-1 loss. Hamels' teammate, Cliff Lee, was the winner for Cleveland that day with seven innings of one-run ball and five K's.
The Phillies took all three matchups with Cleveland back in 2010.
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