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Cleveland Indians Will Look To Continue Game 3 Dominance Against Red Sox

(Sports Network) - The Boston Red Sox turn to Jon Lester in hopes of avenging their most one-sided loss of the season in tonight's finale of a four-game series with the Cleveland Indians, who'll send out fellow seven-game winner Mitch Talbot for an intriguing matchup of young hurlers.

Boston will be attempting to bounce back from an 11-0 shellacking at the hands of the Indians on Wednesday, with most of the damage coming from an eight-run uprising in the bottom of the eighth inning that broke open a relatively close contest.

Travis Hafner highlighted the late outburst with a grand slam and Russell Branyan delivered a pair of RBI singles in the big inning to help Cleveland get back on track after losing the first two games of this series. Jhonny Peralta also had two hits and knocked in two runs for the Tribe, while Trevor Crowe went 2-for-4 and scored three times in the rout.

All that offense wasn't necessary, as former Boston prospect Justin Masterson (2-5) fired a two-hit gem for Cleveland to register his first career shutout. The right-hander, acquired from the Red Sox last July in the trade that sent All-Star catcher Victor Martinez to Boston, added six strikeouts and threw 75- of-110 pitches for strikes.

"I was just building off the last couple starts," said Masterson. "The last two have been pretty good and it went in to [Wednesday]. We were getting that first strike in there, which makes guys swing at pitches they might not always swing at."

Masterson outdueled former teammate Clay Buchholz (8-4), who did pitch well for Boston in a losing cause. The Red Sox starter held the Indians to three runs and gave up just three hits before exiting after seven innings.

"[Masterson] threw better than I did today, he was on," said Buchholz of his former teammate. "He has his stuff working. A guy like that is hard to hit when he's throwing 88-96 [miles per hour] with movement."

The loss was only the third in the last 11 games for the Red Sox, while the Indians halted a three-game skid with Wednesday's verdict.

Cleveland's chances for a series split could be compromised by the presence of Lester, perhaps the AL's most dominant pitcher over the past seven weeks. The standout southpaw has amassed a 7-0 record and a gaudy 1.29 earned run average over his last nine starts and enters tonight's test having won four straight assignments and yielding a paltry three runs -- two earned -- and 15 hits during a span of 28 1/3 innings.

Lester has allowed two runs or fewer in all but one of those nine starts during his unbeaten stretch and hasn't been dealt a loss since April 18. He was masterful once again this past Saturday in Baltimore, limiting the Orioles to four hits and three walks through 6 1/3 scoreless innings in leading the Red Sox to an 8-2 decision.

The 26-year-old also carries an undefeated streak against the Indians into tonight's finale, having registered a 3-0 record with a 3.89 ERA in six career starts versus the Tribe. Lester has been roughed up a bit at Progressive Field in the past, however, as he's posted a 6.06 ERA over three previous trips there.

Cleveland will hand the ball to its unlikely ace in Talbot, a former Tampa Bay farmhand acquired from the Rays in a trade back in December. The right- hander has emerged as an early AL Rookie of the Year candidate by compiling a 7-4 mark with a 3.54 ERA in 11 starts for the last-place Indians and pitching at least six innings in nine of those assignments.

Talbot further enhanced his credentials with an excellent seven-inning stint at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday, when he held the White Sox to a run on six hits to pick up win No. 7 of the season. That effort followed up a respectable showing against the defending world champion New York Yankees on May 31, with the 26-year-old giving up three runs in 6 1/3 innings despite taking a loss.

This will be Talbot's first-ever encounter with the Red Sox as a reliever, but he did make his major league debut against Boston while with the Rays in 2008. In that game, which took place on September 15 of that year, he was roughed up for four runs in three innings of relief.

This series has been a one-sided one over the past few years, with Boston winning 17 of 21 regular-season games between the clubs since the start of the 2007 campaign. The Red Sox have amassed a 9-3 record at Progressive Field over that time frame.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.