MLB

Indians-Rays Preview

The Tampa Bay Rays have managed just six hits through the first three games of this series with the Cleveland Indians - none coming before the sixth inning.

Facing the offensively inept Rays could help Corey Kluber earn the victory that's eluded him for more than a month.

Cleveland looks to deal host Tampa Bay a fifth straight defeat Thursday while spoiling the return of Matt Moore, who makes his first start in 14 months.

The Rays (42-38) have averaged 2.3 runs during a 2-8 stretch, a slump that began with a 1-0 loss at Cleveland on June 21. The Indians (36-41) have continued to shut down the Tampa offense while becoming the first club in the expansion era to take a perfect game into the sixth inning in three straight contests.

Cody Anderson allowed his first baserunner in the seventh of Monday's 7-1 victory and Danny Salazar held the Rays hitless until the sixth in a 6-2 victory Tuesday.

Carlos Carrasco followed by tossing a perfect game through 7 1-3 innings Wednesday before walking Joey Butler and then losing the no-hitter with two outs in the ninth on Butler's RBI single in an 8-1 victory.

"They've been outstanding," Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Cleveland's starters in the series. "Cody Anderson is a little bit of an unknown. The other two guys, you could argue their stuff is as good as Chris Archer's - big fastballs, wipe-out breaking balls. They just happened to stack a couple of them against us in a row."

Now the Rays will try to solve Kluber (3-9, 3.66 ERA), who is seeking his first victory since beating Seattle on May 28. The reigning AL Cy Young winner is 0-4 with a 3.97 ERA in five starts since after allowing three runs and striking out 10 in seven innings of Friday's 4-3 loss to Baltimore.

The Indians have lost 13 of Kluber's 16 starts. He's received six runs of support during his winless stretch, dropping his run-support average to a major league-low 2.28.

"He's a tough kid," manager Terry Francona said. "He'll show up tomorrow and work his rear end off just like he always does. And again, every time he pitches, we feel good."

The right-hander didn't allow a hit over the final four of his seven innings in his last start against the Rays on June 20, but he gave up three runs in the first - including a two-run homer to Evan Longoria - and another in the third of a 4-1 loss.

Tampa looks to snap out of its offensive funk in order to back Moore, who hasn't pitched in the majors since April 7, 2014 - his second start of that year. He had Tommy John surgery later that month.

"It almost seems as if the last 14 months were kind of foggy when I was thinking of certain moments," Moore told MLB's official website. "To be back here, finally, knowing I don't have another plane ride and no more rehab starts, it feels good.

"I'm anxious, I'm excited. I feel ready."

The left-hander was an All-Star in 2013 when he went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA. He went 0-2 with a 2.95 ERA in five rehab starts with Class-A Charlotte and Triple-A Durham.

Moore didn't pitch more than 5 1-3 innings in any of his rehab outings, and he'll likely be on a pitch count as Cleveland looks to sweep the four-game set.

Brandon Moss had a two-run double in the second before his three-run homer in the eighth Wednesday. He went 6 for 50 over his previous 14 games.

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