The Indians have boasted one of the American League's top rotations this month and continued on their strong run of late in the opener of a three-game series with the Rays on Friday night. Corey Kluber gave Cleveland a strong effort, guiding the Tribe to the win column for the sixth time in eight games.
With an inconsistent offense early on this season, the Indians feel fortunate to be experiencing a turnaround from their starting staff at the moment. Right-hander Zach McAllister will look to continue that tend on Saturday, when Tampa Bay counters with left-hander Erik Bedard.
Indians manager Terry Francona credits pitching coach Mickey Callaway for taking steps to initiate the current run by the Tribe's starters. During Cleveland's last road trip, McAllister was brought back to start on just three days' rest, but it allowed the Indians to get their staff on a five-day schedule after the team's inconsistent, rain-plagued April.
"Mickey was pretty strong in his thinking that we need to keep our guys on their day," Francona said. "That's part of the reason we brought Zach back, because he thought that they were getting ready to [get on a roll]. Arm-strength wise, they were in a good position where they didn't need an extra day, and it might not help them [to have one].
"He thought it'd be really good to keep them on their day, and he was right. We listened to him, because it was his idea. I think it helped, and I think that's just him being in tune with the guys and talking to them. He kind of knows how they feel about things."
During Cleveland's recent homestand, the rotation went a combined 4-0 with a 1.94 ERA, 51 strikeouts and 13 walks in 46 1/3 innings. Within that stretch, McAllister spun 6 2/3 scoreless frames, scattering five hits and matching a career best with eight strikeouts against the Twins on Monday.
Bedard is coming off his best start of the season Sunday against the Yankees in New York, where he allowed one run on six hits and a walk while striking out three en route to his first win in 15 starts, an 0-9 streak that dated back to June 26.
Rays manager Joe Maddon pointed out that Bedard had already made strides in his previous two starts against the Twins and the Red Sox before his win against the Yankees.
"He made some really good pitches that went unrewarded [against the Twins]," Maddon said. "Inside to the right-handers in particular. Then against Boston, a little better. And New York, even better than that. Honestly, the last three starts, what he's done is pretty good."
Indians: Cabrera en fuego
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera snapped out of an 0-for-13 funk with two hits in his final two at-bats on Wednesday. Since that drought, Cabrera has gone 9-for-11 at the plate with two home runs, three doubles, one walk, four RBIs and four runs.
Prior to notching five extra-base hits in those 11 at-bats, the shortstop had five extra-base hits in his previous 87 at-bats for Cleveland. He went 4-for-5 and fell a triple shy of a cycle in Thursday's win over Minnesota.
Rays: Giving Maddon a hand
For a fourth consecutive year, Maddon used audience suggestions from the Rays Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon to put together Friday night's lineup against the Indians. Brandon Guyer was among those attending the luncheon for the Rays, and that weighed in with the crowd for starting the seldom-used outfielder on Friday night. Maddon noted that he wanted to give Desmond Jennings a night off, and this served as the perfect opportunity.
• With the left-handed Bedard on the mound, Francona is considering giving left-handed-hitting Michael Bourn a day to rest his legs on Saturday. That plan is subject to change, especially since backup center fielder Nyjer Morgan has barely faced lefties this season (one out of 37 total at-bats). Cleveland is 4-8 (0-6 on the road) against southpaw starters this season.
• During the Orioles' sweep of the Rays in the first three games of the current homestand, the Rays scored seven runs for an average of 2.33 runs per game. They averaged 5.64 runs per game in their first 14 home games entering this homestand. They brought the winning run to the plate in all three losses to Baltimore, going a combined 4-for-26 (.154) with runners in scoring position.
• Jennings recorded his third multi-stolen base game of the season in Thursday night's 3-1 loss to the Orioles. He is one of three AL players with three multi-stolen base games, joining Brian Dozier of the Twins and Elvis Andrus of the Rangers.