The Indians have come to expect two things from their rotation this season: When Justin Masterson is on the mound, they have a good chance of their starter going deep into the game. And when their starters pitch deep into the game, they have a good chance of winning.
Masterson will take the ball again Monday night at Yankee Stadium, and the Bombers will send Andy Pettitte to the mound for his first start since May 16. The veteran lefty had plenty of time to sit around and watch his teammates play while he dealt with a tight left trapezius muscle, and he's ready to get back on the mound, especially with the Yankees in the midst of a slump.
"Obviously I know we haven't been playing as well as we were, but I want to do well," Pettitte said. "I want to go out there and do my job and give us a chance. I hope I give us a quality start. I've got as much incentive every time I go out there as I do no matter what situation we're in. I just want to go out there and get going again and get on a good roll."
The Indians enter Monday's game with a 23-8 record when their starter goes at least six innings, and Masterson has done so in 11 of his 12 starts this season, including each of his last eight.
"When you thicken out, almost like your lineup, when you thicken out your rotation, it's amazing how it seems to make the next guy better," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Because on days when maybe they don't have their best stuff, you can bail them out, you know what I mean, with a fresher bullpen, so it just works in so many different ways to your advantage."
Cleveland's rotation owns a 3.46 ERA over its last 35 games, but Masterson has hardly needed anyone to bail him out lately. The right-hander went 4-1 with a 3.02 ERA in six May starts, striking out 44 batters in 41 2/3 innings. His best start of the season came against the Yankees on May 13, a complete-game four-hitter with three walks and nine strikeouts.
New York, meanwhile, is coming off a rough stretch including the usual intensity associated with its series against Boston. So the Yankees could use a strong return effort from Pettitte, who was 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA and 39 strikeouts in eight starts before hitting the disabled list.
Pettitte said he had to make some adjustments to his routine due to the injury. Specifically, he'll cut back on the number of bullpen sessions he throws between starts.
Pettitte is 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 22 career starts against the Indians. He shut down the Tribe on April 9, allowing one run on five hits and three walks over seven innings, and a similar performance wouldn't be a bad way to get back into the swing of things.
"I feel good," Pettitte said. "I'm ready to go. Excited to get back out there."
Indians: Versatile Langwell makes debut
Matt Langwell made his Major League debut on Sunday, serving up a two-run homer to Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria, but he bounced back to strike out two and get through 1 1/3 innings. Before the game, Francona praised the right-hander's versatility and acknowledged how it affects his management of the bullpen.
"Sometimes, a guy like Langwell, even when he doesn't pitch, allows you to use other guys, knowing that, OK, if we match up on a certain night, and we get to the ninth and something happens and we have a tie game, you got him behind," Francona said. "So there's a lot of ways an arm like that can be valuable. You know he'll throw strikes."
• Cleveland was held homerless in Sunday's series finale against Tampa Bay, but the Indians' 69 home runs through their previous 55 games were their most since 2007, when they hit 70. Right-handed batters have accounted for 37 of those 69 blasts, and their next right-handed homer will match the Tribe's total from the entire 2012 season.
Yankees: Ichiro heating up
Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki endured an 0-for-22 stretch from May 11-16, but he's been catching on at the plate since then, hitting safely in 12 of his last 14 games.
"I almost think that, when a guy of his stature struggles like that, it's a little bit daunting because of all the success, but I just feel it's a little bit of what hitters go through," manager Joe Girardi said. "They go through streaks. It's great while you're in a good streak, and it's never any fun when you're going through a tough streak."
• Girardi said he's been happy with the versatility that infielder David Adams has provided on the offensive end.
"It has given us more options against left-handers," Girardi said. "When they start a lefty, you have some pretty potent left-handed bats on the bench as well, if they bring in right-handers. So it has changed us."
• Cleveland is 6-14 against the American League East this season. Most of the Tribe's success this year has come against the AL West (10-1) along with a winning record against the AL Central (9-8).
• The Yankees have held the clear advantage against the Indians in recent years, going 23-10 overall since 2008. They're 11-4 all-time against the Tribe at the new Yankee Stadium, having won three straight and eight of the last nine.