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07/26/07 1:21 AM ET

Lee headlines battle of lefties

Boston (61-40) at Cleveland (59-42), Thursday, 7:05 p.m. ET

Before the season, general manager Mark Shapiro said that Cliff Lee represents the "greatest upside" in the Indians' rotation.

And for the Indians to reach their goal of making the playoffs, they'll likely need that upside to come into play these last couple months of the season.

The struggles of Lee and Jake Westbrook have put a cramp on an otherwise sound rotation, but both have showed signs that they can reclaim the form that earned them each a contract extension in the past year.

Lee, for instance, was roughed up for five runs in the first inning of his start on Saturday in Texas, but he allowed just a pair of runs over the remainder of his 6 2/3 innings of work. The Indians took those last 5 2/3 innings as a positive because Lee was much more aggressive with all his pitches, not just his fastball.

As the Indians wrap up a four-game series against the Red Sox at Jacobs Field on Thursday night, Lee will look to maintain that aggressiveness from the first inning on. Perhaps then that upside will truly reveal itself.

Pitching matchup
BOS: LHP Kason Gabbard (4-0, 2.97 ERA)
Gabbard's July is providing a serious lift to both his team and to his own rotation hopes. When Curt Schilling returns from shoulder tendinitis around Aug. 1, the Red Sox will have to make a decision about whom to keep in the starting rotation, a decision made easier by each Gabbard start. On Saturday against the White Sox, Gabbard allowed one run and two hits in seven innings. In July he is 3-0 with a 1.92 ERA, with 11 hits allowed in his past 28 innings. On Thursday at Cleveland, nevertheless, Gabbard will be seeking the first road win of his career after becoming the third pitcher in franchise history to win his first five home starts. He has found it tougher away from home, going 0-3 in eight road appearances.

CLE: LHP Cliff Lee (5-7, 5.95 ERA)
In going 0-3 since July 6, Lee has allowed 19 earned runs in his past 16 innings (10.69 ERA). He already lost to Boston once this year, allowing three runs on six hits in five innings of a 5-3 defeat on May 28 at Fenway Park. In six career starts against the Red Sox, Lee is 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA and has held Boston hitters to a .235 batting average.

Player to watch
The Indians are happy with Josh Barfield's performance at second base this season, but his bat has left quite a bit to be desired. Their hope is that he'll improve his ability to get on base more consistently. Barfield has been taking some better swings of late.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
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Up next
• Friday: Twins (Boof Bonser, 5-6, 4.53) at Indians (Paul Byrd, 8-4, 4.43), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Twins (Johan Santana, 11-8, 2.94) at Indians (Jake Westbrook, 1-6, 6.20), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Twins (Matt Garza, 1-2, 1.33) at Indians (C.C. Sabathia, 13-5, 3.70), 1:05 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.