Not even two weeks ago, the Indians swept the Red Sox -- then riding a seven-game winning streak -- in three games at Progressive Field. On Thursday, they'll look to build on that performance against Boston away from home as they prepare for the first of four in Fenway Park.
Leading off the series for the Tribe will be pitcher Josh Tomlin, who is off to the best start of his career after undergoing Tommy John surgery nearly two years ago. Through six starts, the right-hander has posted a 3.12 ERA to go with a stellar 0.94 WHIP while registering 7.8 strikeouts-per-nine, feeling comfortable on the mound all the while
"Just being healthy and being able to go out there and compete, that's the main thing," Tomlin said. "I haven't been able to do that in about two years now, so I'm able to do that, and I think the most satisfying thing for that is being able to get up and down that many times and not feel any setbacks from the Tommy John surgery."
Tomlin dazzled in his most recent start against the Rangers, powering through eight innings in the Tribe's 8-3 win over Texas last Saturday. He allowed seven hits, walked zero and struck out five.
Tomlin credited his success to continued command of his fastball on both sides of the plate, as well as managing to locate his secondary pitches when necessary.
"Being able to throw offspeed stuff for a strike when I needed to and then being able to bury it too when I need to as well," Tomlin said.
Tomlin's last meeting with the Red Sox, however, was one he'd surely like to forget. On Aug. 12, 2012, Tomlin came in for a relief appearance and allowed seven runs in just 1 1/3 innings. It would be his last outing before undergoing the Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss just about all of the 2013 season.
Boston will send out Jon Lester (6-7, 3.52) to take on the Tribe. The veteran southpaw got roughed up by the Tigers over the weekend, allowing five runs on 12 hits -- two of them home runs -- in 4 1/3 innings. However, five of his six previous games were quality starts.
"Obviously, it wasn't good from the start," said Lester. "Just one of those weird nights. From my first throw in warmups to my last pitch on the mound, just wasn't good. Combine that with a good-hitting team like they are over there, obviously you get the results I did."
Lester's last outing against the Indians was unremarkable at best, as he gave up four earned on 10 hits through seven innings in May, 2013. He has gone 2-4 with a 3.05 ERA in six starts at Fenway Park this season.
On Tuesday, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington rebuked the notion that the team had considered trading Lester should the team find itself slipping out of the race for the postseason. He insisted that the team would still like to extend Lester, who has spent his entire Major League career with Boston.
"Our position hasn't changed," Cherington said. "We hope to have a conversation again about his contract. We'd love to find a way to keep him here. But right now we're just trying to win games and stay in this thing. I believe we will. When we do, we're going to want Jon Lester pitching for us down the stretch."
Indians: Tribe looks to continue solid road trip
Cleveland entered its road trip with an American League-worst 9-19 record away from Progressive Field. However, the club went 3-1 during its most recent series -- a four-game tilt in Texas -- before dropping two to the Royals in Kansas City.
The Indians players have not paid much mind to their record disparity at home versus on the road, but outfielder Michael Bourn believes that the team -- which is 22-16 since May 1 -- has begun to find its rhythm as the weather has gotten warmer.
"I think as a team we're playing a little bit better, pitching better, playing better defense," Bourn said.
Red Sox: Drew set to return Thursday
Boston expects shortstop Stephen Drew back Thursday after he missed the three-game series against the Orioles with soreness in his right oblique.
This will be Drew's first home game since re-signing with the Red Sox.
Drew has just one hit in his first 14 at-bats, which is probably to be expected, since the shortstop didn't play Spring Training and saw little time in the Minors.
"He's only played four games," said Cherington. "It seems pretty early to make a judgment on that one. We all know Stephen Drew is a really good Major League player. We all know how good he is. We knew he was stepping back on a Major League stage, seeing Major League pitching and I wouldn't be a little bit surprised if it took him a little while to get the timing back and get comfortable. But we signed him because we thought it would make us better over the course of the season and we still feel that way. I don't have any reason to think he won't."
•Tribe third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall has continued his scorching pace at the plate, following up his five-hit, three-homer performance in Texas with two-hit performances against the Royals on Tuesday and Wednesday. He enters Thursday riding a nine-game hitting streak.
•Indians first baseman Nick Swisher made his first Minor League rehab start on Tuesday since a hyperextended left knee sent him to the disabled list on May 27. He went 0-for-2 in five innings with Double-A Akron.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.