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Yet Another Tough Pitching Match-Up As Series With Rays Concludes With A Thursday Matinee

Okay, now everyone can hopefully relax and get back to normal. There has to be a bit of pressure as any streak reaches epic proportions, and when that streak is ended, even if ended with a loss, there has to be some relief.

The Indians’ 14-game home winning streak ended on Wednesday night, and now today’s 12:05 game with the Tampa Bay Rays becomes just another home game, and a chance to win a series and move on to the next series.

Justin Masterson will try for the third time today to win his sixth game, although he might well be 7-0 right now with more offensive support. In Masterson’s last two starts — both no-decisions — he has worked 14 innings and allowed only three earned runs, but has nothing to show for it besides a team win and a team loss.

Masterson (5-0, 2.11 ERA) will be making his 10th career appearance and sixth start against the Rays. He has not had much success in going 1-4 with a 6.00 ERA against Tampa Bay in 33 career innings.

Masterson will be facing somewhat of a mirror today — a pitcher that has had a terrific start to 2011 but that hasn’t had much success against his Thursday opponent.

James Shields will make his seventh career start against the Tribe, and has yet to beat The Good Guys. Shields is 0-4 with a 4.06 ERA in 37 1/3 innings versus Cleveland, but, as with Masterson, that is only half the story.

Shields (3-1, 2.01 ERA) has been very impressive this season. Shields has worked 53 2/3 innings and has fanned 44 while walking 12, and since April 8 has not worked less than seven innings or given up more than two runs in any of his five starts in that span.

Cumulatively, in his last five starts, Shields is 3-0 with a 1.12 ERA over 40 1/3 innings.

The Indians may be without Grady Sizemore for a second straight game. Sizemore dinged up a knee sliding into second on Tuesday and had an MRI yesterday which showed a bruise but no other damage, but Manny Acta may not throw Sizemore right back into the lineup against the right-handed Shields.

Although as lifeless as the offense looked last night against David Price, the Indians can use all the help they can get.

After today’s game, the Tribe will welcome the Seattle Mariners to town for a three-game weekend series. Cleveland swept the Mariners in Seattle earlier this season.

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