As Sizemore goes, so do Tribe's bats

Tribe's bats go as Sizemore goes

CLEVELAND -- Leadoff hitters are known to set a tone for a club, and Grady Sizemore is proof of that theory.

The Indians, who open an 11-game road trip Friday in Kansas City, are 16-7 in games in which Sizemore scores a run. He is batting .270 (24-for-89) with 20 runs scored, six homers and 19 RBIs when they win, and .243 with nine runs scored, two homers and seven RBIs in club losses.

Tracking Sizemore's progression as a hitter, then, is a way to track the progress of the Tribe's bats as a unit. Those bats have struggled all season, but they showed some needed signs of life against the White Sox this week.

Sizemore, who is batting .255 for the season, has not been immune to the decrease in production from the Indians' hitters. He's probably happy to see the Royals sending three right-handed starters to the mound this weekend, because he's labored against left-handers this season, to the tune of a .204 (11-for-54) average.

In 2007, Sizemore was drastically better against lefties, batting .284 (59-for-208) off them.

Hitting coach Derek Shelton said he's not concerned with Sizemore's southpaw struggles.

"I think it's one of those things, with left-handers, it's always going to be like that," Shelton said. "Left-handers are always going to give left-handers trouble."

Shelton can live with the left-handed splits Sizemore has put up because of the center fielder's general ability to find ways to get on base. Last season, Sizemore's on-base percentage rose to a career-high .390, as he drew 101 walks, a full 23 more than his '06 total of 78.

This season, Sizemore has again shown a steady eye, drawing 31 walks. He has a .372 OBP.

"The average is down, but the on-base percentage is still up," Shelton said. "He has almost 30 walks already, and we've seen some power [eight homers]. With Grady, his average is going to fluctuate, but he's still getting on base. There's nothing with him that really concerns me. At times, he can be really inconsistent with his swing, but we're seeing that with all our guys right now."

Pitching matchup
CLE: LHP Cliff Lee (7-1, 1.50 ERA)
Lee hasn't been quite as sharp his past two starts, giving up eight runs on 17 hits with five walks over 12 1/3 innings against the Reds and Rangers. But in the outing against the Rangers on Saturday, he did a nice job of recovering after looking shaky in the first and second innings. He never found his breaking ball, but he found command of his fastball. Command of that fastball has been the key to Lee's splendid '08. He'll look to keep it going against a Royals team he limited to three hits in nine shutout innings at Kauffman Stadium on April 24.

KC: RHP Gil Meche (3-7, 5.35 ERA)
Meche pitched well despite suffering a loss against Toronto in his last start. He allowed just two runs on five hits over six innings, walking two and striking out five. Meche did struggle with his location, however, needing 115 pitches to get through his six innings. The right-hander is 3-7 with a 5.54 ERA in 14 career starts against Cleveland.

Tidbits
The Indians have lost 10 of 12. ... The Tribe's bullpen blew its ninth save of the season Wednesday, as Rafael Betancourt allowed three runs in the seventh inning. The Indians' bullpen is now 9-for-18 in save situations. ... Jhonny Peralta is 7-for-his-last-22 (.318) with three homers and four RBIs over his last five games. ... Jamey Carroll has hit safely in six straight games and is batting .400 with three RBIs over that tenure.

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Up next
• Saturday: Indians (C.C. Sabathia, 3-6, 4.74) at Royals (Brett Tomko, 2-6, 6.11), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Indians (Paul Byrd, 2-4, 4.10) at Royals (Brian Bannister, 4-6, 4.97), 2:10 p.m. ET
• Monday: Indians (Aaron Laffey, 3-3, 1.59) at Rangers (TBD), 8:05 p.m. ET

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.