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(Sports Network) – Back at the top of the American League Central at least for the moment, the Cleveland Indians try to put together a three-game win streak for just the second time since late May when they challenge the Cincinnati Reds in the second of a three-game interleague set at Great American Ball Park.
Cleveland, which was the darling of the AL back in May when it was 15 games over .500 and blowing away the competition, has been brought back to reality in recent weeks even though it is again in first place in the division, a half game ahead of the Detroit Tigers.
On Friday the Tribe scored all eight of their runs within the first five innings, en route to the six-run win over the Reds on the road. Cleveland starter Justin Masterson picked up his first win since April 26 by holding Cincinnati to one run on four hits and a walk. Despite showing a 3.34 ERA over his previous 11 starts, Masterson had gone 0-6.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Grady Sizemore all hit home runs for Cleveland, while Travis Buck contributed a two-run single as the squad won for the third time in four tries.
Bronson Arroyo fell to an even 7-7 on the season as he took the loss after giving up eight runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. Arroyo was tagged for all three of Cleveland’s home runs and has now surrendered a total of 24 over the course of 101 2/3 innings this season. He has been particularly roughed up of late, issuing seven homers in his last two appearances.
"I didn’t have anything tonight," Arroyo said of his lackluster effort. "I didn’t have a sinker, I didn’t have a breaking ball, was throwing 83-86. Kind of pigeon-holed to throwing changeups and straight fastballs."
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips finished up 3-for-4 with two home runs to reach 1,000 hits for his career, but still Cincinnati has failed to find any consistency the last two weeks, having alternated wins and losses over the last nine games.
The only pitcher in the majors with double-digit losses heading into the month of July, Fausto Carmona is scheduled to make the start this afternoon for Cleveland. The right-hander, who lost his only previous decision versus Cincinnati, has fallen in seven of his last eight decisions this season and is nine games under .500 (51-60) for his career.
Last weekend Carmona surrendered three runs on seven hits and three walks, striking out four in six innings versus San Francisco on the road, but it still wasn’t enough as the squad dropped a 3-1 final.
As for the Reds, their plan is to hand the ball to Homer Bailey this time around. The right-hander, already 0-1 this season but 2-1 for his career versus the Tribe, just returned from the disabled list barely a week ago and was promptly issued his second loss of the season in a 7-5 setback versus the Baltimore Orioles on the road.
Against the O’s, Bailey made it through just five innings, allowing five runs on nine hits and a pair of walks while striking out five in his first action in a month.
Cleveland has taken all four meetings between the in-state rivals this season, that after losing all but five of the previous 18 matchups dating back to 2008. The Reds are a disappointing 5-11 in interleague action in 2011, yet the club is one game over .500 on the season and just three games out of first in the NL Central heading into the weekend.