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Red Sox-Indians Preview

Red Sox-Indians Preview
Two weeks into the 2008 season, the Cleveland Indians have struggled to string together victories.

They ended 2007 the same way.

The reigning AL Central champion Indians look to win back-to-back games for the first time since the start of this season Monday when they open a two-game series against the Boston Red Sox in a rematch of last season's ALCS.

After beating the New York Yankees in four games in the 2007 ALDS, Cleveland (5-7) appeared to be on the verge of its first World Series berth since 1997 as it jumped to a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox (7-6) in the ALCS.

The Indians could not close out Boston, however, as they were outscored 30-5 in the final three games, losing the AL pennant in seven.

Boston went on to win its second World Series title in four years, while the Indians are still looking for their first championship since 1948.

"It was tough. It took me a great deal of the offseason to get over it," Cleveland starting pitcher Paul Byrd told the team's official Web site. "There was a good bit of frustration."

While the Indians are seeking a bit of revenge from last season's disappointing finish, they are more concerned with simply winning some games.

"We just need to win some games," Indians left fielder Jason Michaels said. "These guys haven't talked about (Boston)."

Cleveland defeated Oakland 7-1 on Sunday, winning for just the third time in 10 games. The Indians have not won consecutive contests since opening the season with back-to-back victories over the Chicago White Sox.

Grady Sizemore went 2-for-4 with three RBIs on Sunday, and is 2-for-6 with a homer and a triple lifetime against Monday's scheduled starter Jon Lester (1-2, 4.50 ERA).

After allowing three hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-0 win at Oakland on April 2, Lester gave up four runs, five hits and walked four in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-2 loss to Detroit on Wednesday.

The left-hander made two relief appearances against the Indians in last season's ALCS, allowing three runs in 3 2-3 innings. This will be his first start in Cleveland since July 23 - his first game back after sitting out the first half of the 2007 season while recovering from lymphoma.

In his last start at Progressive Field, Lester gave up two runs, five hits and struck out six in six innings of a 6-2 victory. He is 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two career starts versus the Indians.

The Red Sox are coming off an 8-5 victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday to take two of three from their arch-rival.

Manny Ramirez went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a RBI on Sunday, and is batting .392 (29-for-74) with eight home runs, seven doubles and 22 RBIs in 20 regular-season games against the Indians since 2005. He hit .409 (9-for-22) with two homers and 10 RBIs in last season's ALCS.

Ramirez is also 8-for-16 in his career against Monday's scheduled starter Jake Westbrook (1-1, 2.76).

Boston designated hitter David Ortiz is expected back in the lineup for the series opener after manager Terry Francona gave him Sunday night off.

Ortiz is off to the worst start of his career, batting .070 (3-for-43).

"Just trying to figure things out for a minute so I can go back to being Big Papi again," said Ortiz, who is hitless in seven career at-bats versus Westbrook.

The right-handed Westbrook allowed three runs and seven hits in a complete-game 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.

Westbrook started Game 7 for Cleveland in last season's 2007 ALCS, allowing three runs and nine hits in six innings. He left with Cleveland trailing 3-2, but the Red Sox overpowered the Indians bullpen and won 11-2.

Westbrook is 3-2 with a 4.81 ERA in six career games against Boston.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 14, 2008

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