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05/29/10 5:58 PM ET

Indians taking leap of faith against Yankees

If you're wondering how much longer the Indians can stick with Justin Masterson, you're not alone. Masterson, who has lost 11 straight decisions, will go into Sunday's series finale against the Yankees needing a positive outing. Cleveland manager Manny Acta was asked Saturday how much longer he could go with Masterson, and he admitted he didn't know.

"Who knows?" said Acta of Masterson, who was acquired from Boston last season. "If I knew how long my patience will last, I'd know the numbers for the lottery. I don't know where my patience will be in 10 days."

Masterson's skid, which dates back to last season, is one of the longest in Cleveland's franchise history. Only four other Indians -- Guy Morton (13), Rod Nichols (13), Steve Hargan (11) and Fausto Carmona (11) -- have lost as many as 11 straight decisions, and only two of those streaks came in the past 30 years. Still, the Indians see reason for hope.

Masterson has struck out 8.8 batters per nine innings this season, which ranks in the American League's top 10. The right-hander has allowed three earned runs or fewer in five of his first nine outings, and there's also the memory of his final start last season. Masterson went the distance in that one, striking out 12 batters in a 1-0 loss to the White Sox.

"He's shown the ability to strike people out," said Acta. "We don't have many guys on our staff who can do that. That's what keeps our hopes alive that if he can command his fastball, he can be a reliable guy every five days. It's a process. This guy didn't have many Minor League innings [before coming up with the Red Sox]. He's basically had to develop up here."

The Yankees, who have won four of their past six games, will hand the ball to mercurial starter A.J. Burnett. New York is 7-3 in Burnett's 10 starts this season, but he's been hit hard in two of his past four outings. The right-hander threw shutout ball in his most recent outing, but his ERA in May (4.80) is nearly double his ERA from April (4.80).

Indians: Hafner expected back for matinee
Travis Hafner was given another day off -- his third in five games -- on Saturday, but the Indians expect him right back in there to resume his hot hitting on Sunday. Hafner has reached base safely in 36 of his 39 games played this season, but he's been even better of late. Hafner has hit safely in 16 of his past 20 games, notching a .375 average (24-for-64) over that span.

That run has helped raise his season average by more than 50 points (from .208 to .275), and Hafner has also contributed 10 runs and 10 RBIs in his last 20 games. The former All-Star can also count on a favorable pitching matchup in Sunday's series finale, because he's managed to hit .357 (5-for-14) with five RBIs in his brief history against Burnett.

Yankees: Swisher's got the spark
Nick Swisher has been a much different player in May, and he went into Saturday's game with huge disparities in most of his monthly splits. Swisher hit .250 with a .345 on-base percentage and a .434 slugging mark in April, and he went into Saturday's game with a .351 batting average, a .425 on-base and a .662 slugging percentage in the season's second month.

Swisher added three hits on Saturday, giving him seven home runs, 20 runs scored and 17 RBIs this month. And when you look at his play over the past two seasons, his recent surge seems all the more improbable. The switch-hitter played 54 May games for the White Sox and Yankees in 2008 and '09 and batted .164 (28-for-171) with just four home runs and 16 RBIs.

Worth Noting
The Yankees are 5-0 this season when Derek Jeter hits a home run. For his career, they're 161-60. ... Hafner is Cleveland's all-time leader in home runs (154) and RBIs (529) as a designated hitter. ... Jeter's RBI double in the ninth inning Saturday tied Bernie Williams (449) for second in New York's all-time record book. Jeter is also two RBIs from tying Don Mattingly (1,099) for ninth place in team history. ... The Yankees began 2010 as the only team without a player on the disabled list, but they've sent five players to the DL through the first seven weeks of the season. ... New York has scored four runs or fewer in six of its past seven games.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.