Indians-Mariners Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 16, 2012
The Seattle Mariners are coming off a much-needed break in the schedule. The surging Cleveland Indians probably wish they didn't get a day off. Seattle goes for a season-best third consecutive victory Tuesday night at Safeco Field, where it opens a series against an Indians team trying to begin 4-0 on the road for the second straight year. After opening the major league season in Tokyo last month against Oakland, then playing six more games away from home, the Mariners (6-5) began the home portion of their schedule by taking two of three from the Athletics over the weekend. "It's been a long stretch," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said following Sunday's 5-3 victory. "These guys still haven't gotten a chance to get settled in." The Indians (4-4) have started to find their stroke after hitting .176 and averaging 4.0 runs during a rocky season-opening homestand. Cleveland continues its nine-game trip after pounding out 40 hits and scoring 32 runs in a three-game sweep at Kansas City. It was the first time in the Indians' 111-year history that they scored eight or more runs in each of their first three road games. "It was great for us confidence-wise," designated hitter Travis Hafner told the Indians' official website after hitting one of the team's season-best four home runs in Sunday's 13-7 victory. "We feel like we have a good offense, with a bunch of guys capable of hitting 15 to 20 homers. We feel like we can keep it going from here." The Indians, among the league leaders with 15 home runs, need to hit the ball out of the park Tuesday to match the second-longest season-opening streak in team history by homering in their first nine games. Cleveland hit four homers and outscored the Mariners 20-8 in a three-game sweep in its most recent series at Safeco Field from April 8-10, 2011. Seattle, though, won four of the final six matchups between these clubs last season, including the last three. Scheduled starter Kevin Millwood (0-0, 1.50 ERA) will try to extend the Mariners' winning streak in the series. The veteran right-hander has a good chance of doing that if he can deliver like he did in his Seattle debut. Millwood, who pitched for Cleveland in 2005 when Wedge was manager, struck out seven in six strong innings of Wednesday's 4-3 victory at Texas. "Next time out it's going to be pretty much all about locating," Millwood told the Mariners' official website after walking three. "If I can locate my fastball, everything else kind of works from there." Indians sinkerballer Justin Masterson (0-1, 2.77) hopes his stuff works better than his last start when he gets the ball in the series opener. After striking out 10 and throwing eight innings of two-hit ball on opening day April 5 against Toronto, the right-hander surrendered five runs - three earned - over five innings of Wednesday's 10-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Masterson is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in five starts against Seattle. Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, 3 for 4 with a double off Masterson, hit .706 (12 for 17) with five doubles and a homer in four games against Indians pitching in 2011. Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, one of five Indians with two homers while Jason Kipnis leads the club with three, finished 6 for 14 with two home runs in the Indians' last series at Safeco. Cleveland has won 10 of 12 in Seattle, averaging 6.3 runs in that stretch.
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