The Cleveland Indians appear to have finally broken out of their slump. With Ubaldo Jimenez taking the mound on the road against the Houston Astros, they should have a good chance to extend their winning streak.
The right-hander seeks a third straight outstanding road start when he faces the Astros on Friday night.
Cleveland (36-32) gave up its AL Central lead during a 7-14 stretch but moved back into first place with a three-game sweep of Cincinnati to start the week. The Indians gave up a combined three runs in the final two games, the most recent an 8-1 win Wednesday, after posting a 6.16 ERA over their previous 22 contests.
"We're a resilient team," right-hander Justin Masterson said. "I think we'll be able to carry this momentum on the road and have a lot of fun with it."
Jimenez (6-5, 5.00 ERA) will try to do his part with another superb outing away from home. He has allowed one run and five hits in each of his last two road starts, pitching 13 2-3 innings, after putting up a 9.00 ERA in his first five such games.
Plus, Jimenez has gone 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in five career starts against the Astros (28-41) and 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in three at Minute Maid Park.
He will be looking for a better outing than his last one Saturday, when he gave up four runs in six innings of a 9-2 loss to Pittsburgh. However, he'll be facing a team that's 6-18 in its last 24 and has dropped four of five at home.
Houston has totaled one run in losing its last two, leaving 11 runners on base during a 2-1 defeat Wednesday.
"There's a lot of things we can point to like guys trying too hard and putting a little too much pressure on themselves," manager Brad Mills said. "When you start to struggle in those situations, it starts to mount."
Lucas Harrell (6-5, 5.07) will look to end his recent woes, as the right-hander has gone 2-2 with an 8.37 ERA over his last four starts. He held Texas scoreless over five innings Saturday before giving up a three-run homer and a two-run single in the sixth of an 8-3 loss.
Harrell, who has never faced the Indians, is 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA at Minute Maid Park this season.
The Astros could use an effective and efficient effort from Harrell with fatigue having apparently set in for their bullpen. Houston's relievers have a 7.27 ERA in the past 24 games after posting a 2.85 ERA in the first 45.
The bullpen has thrown 78 innings during the last 24 contests, among the most in the NL.
"You just hope the factors of the starters not going very deep hopefully doesn't last that long," Mills told the team's official website. "When the starters don't go very long, that's going to happen. Your bullpen has enough rest they can pick them up now and then, but when the bullpen starts to struggle it's up to the starters to pick them up."
These teams are meeting for the first time since a three-game series in Houston from July 15-17, 2001.
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