Indians offense, defense slumping together

The Cleveland Indians were the first team to 30 wins this season and led the AL Central by as many as seven games just three weeks ago. They’ve won four of their past 18 games and are tied for first place in the division.

Indians Starting Pitchers This Season

Their starting pitching has been troublesome lately; the rotation’s ERA has nearly doubled and they’ve allowed opponents to hit more than 80 points higher over the past 18 games than they did in the first 45 games of the season.

Monday’s starter, Carlos Carrasco, will pitch on five days rest; he’s 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA in four starts on exactly five days rest this season. In his other seven starts he’s 2-3 with a 5.16 ERA.

Keep an eye on Carrasco once he’s thrown 50 pitches; opponents are hitting .221 against him on pitches 1-50 and .319 after his 50th pitch.

The New York Yankees counter with A.J. Burnett, who allowed one earned run in 14 1/3 innings against the Indians in two starts last season. Grady Sizemore, who’s been hitting third recently, has had success against Burnett (5-for-12, 3 2B, HR). Shin-Soo Choo, who Sizemore replaced in the three-hole, has not (2-for-11 but both hits are XBH).

Burnett has made two starts in June this season, one good and one bad. He had a June to forget in 2010, when he was 0-5 with an 11.35 ERA in five June starts. That's the worst ERA in any month for a Yankees pitcher since earned runs became official in the AL in 1913 (min. five starts).

The Indians’ issues over the past 18 games are not all with starting pitching. The offense is also to blame, most notably with a .143 BA with runners in scoring position in the past 18 games -- a stark contrast from its .321 BA with men in scoring position during the 30-15 start.

Asdrubal Cabrera

CabreraDespite those struggles, the Indians are still third in the AL in hitting with RISP, and are 2-for3-44 (.538) with the bases loaded. Asdrubal Cabrera is a big reason why.

Cabrera ranks first or second among AL shortstops in batting average, home runs, RBI and OPS, and has the fourth-highest batting average with runners in scoring position in all of baseball.

The Yankees are near the top of the league in most offensive stats, except for batting average. They’ve made up for the lack of consistent hitting with the highest walk rate, the highest slugging percentage and the most home runs in the American League.

They’ve relied heavily on home runs to score this season; 47 percent of their runs have been scored by home runs, by far the highest percentage in the league (Orioles are second-highest at 40.3).

What does this mean for the Yankees? Of the past 10 teams to lead the league in this statistic, only two have made the playoffs (Phillies in 2009 and White Sox in 2008) and none have won the World Series.

Derek Jeter, who is seven hits shy of 3,000 for his career, has a .342 career batting average against the Indians. That's third-best among active players, trailing Mark Kotsay (.349) and teammate Mark Teixeira (.349).

From 2003-10, Jeter’s batting average against the Indians was .366. He’s 1-for-9 so far in 2011.

-- Jeremy Lundblad and Mark Simon contributed