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TOR@CLE: Lowe goes seven strong in Indians debut

Following Tuesday night's series-opening slugfest, both the Mariners and Indians will look to their starters to do the heavy lifting after a taxing night to the bullpens. The good news for both clubs is that their respective starters have shown some longevity during small, early samples.

Derek Lowe -- pitching against the team that drafted him in the eighth round of the 1991 First-Year Player Draft -- takes the ball for Cleveland, aiming to build on his two positive starts to begin the year. Lowe, who has a 2-0 record and 1.98 ERA this season, comes off an outing in which he allowed three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings against the Royals.

Wednesday marks only the second time since 2004 that Lowe will pitching in the city where he debuted in 1997. Lowe picked up a victory in Safeco last season with the Braves during interleague play, tossing six innings of one-run ball.

Jason Vargas will square off against Lowe, coming off an up-and-down against the Rangers in which he allowed four earned runs over 6 2/3 innings with six strikeouts. Yet, to form, Vargas limited the damage by walking only one batter. He has issued just four free passes in 18 1/3 innings this season.

Vargas faces a challenge in the Indians as his opposition has averaged 6.7 runs per game. Combine the Indians' 2012 production with Vargas 6.75 career ERA in four starts against Cleveland, and the southpaw may have his work cut out for him. However, if there is one thing that Vargas' teammates have learned from watching him, it is that he finds a way to get the job done.

"You watch a guy like him and you're watching a guy who knows what he's doing," Felix Hernandez said. "He sets guys up, he pitches inside and outside, he works the corners. And when he's got that changeup working, man, it's awesome. You see guys taking really bad swings and it's really cool."

Indians: Damon's timetable set in motion
The Indians finalized the signing of outfielder Johnny Damon to a Minor League contract on Tuesday. Damon's next step will be to participate in an abbreviated Spring Training season in Goodyear, Ariz. He is targeting early May for his arrival in Cleveland. Damon inked a deal worth a reported $1.25 million with an additional $1.4 million in potential performance bonuses.

"We're hopeful that in a couple of weeks he'd be ready to contribute at the Major League level. Johnny probably has an earlier timetable than that, but it's really just going to be dependent upon how well he progresses through baseball activities," said Indians general manager Chris Antonetti.

Mariners: Smoak catching fire
Justin Smoak went through an 0-for-10 streak between April 12-14, but has seemingly found his stroke over the past two games. The first baseman smacked a two-run home run for his second round-tripper of the year on Monday, and followed that up by going 4-for-5 with one run scored and one RBI on Tuesday.

• John Jaso continued his strong play against the Indians on Tuesday, hitting a two-run home run, driving in three runs and scoring two runs. Jaso hit .313 against the Tribe in 2011.

Worth noting
• The Indians have homered in each of their first nine games, which is the longest such streak since a nine-game run in 2006. Cleveland also hit a home run in nine consecutive games to open the 1997 season. The franchise record of season-opening homer streaks is 14 set in 2002.

• The Mariners eclipsed both the 50,000th hit and 25,000th run scored in franchise history during Tuesday's game.

• Ichiro Suzuki has (223) games of three hits or more, placing him third among active players behind Derek Jeter (265) and Alex Rodriguez (232). Comments