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PIT@MIL: McDonald fans eight en route to fifth win

If there's any place the Indians would like to settle their Interleague score against the Pirates, it's Progressive Field. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, will have other ideas this weekend in Cleveland.

The two Midwestern foes, who have gone 15-15 against one another since the inception of Interleague Play in 1997, will square off for a three-game set beginning on Friday at Progressive Field. The Indians have won nine of the 12 meetings between the two clubs on their home turf.

Pittsburgh, which has surprised the National League Central, is sitting just three games behind first-place Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the Indians have dropped three in a row and fell to two games back of the first-place White Sox in the American League Central on Thursday afternoon.

Cleveland turns to right-hander Justin Masterson to open the series on Friday, as he looks to earn his eighth quality start of the year in his 14th outing.

Masterson has logged six or more innings in nine consecutive starts, and has lowered his ERA from 6.65 to 4.76, but is just 2-4 in that span after receiving two runs or fewer of support in eight of the nine contests (zero runs three times).

Masterson was out-dueled in his last outing by St. Louis' Kyle Lohse, who allowed zero earned runs to Masterson's one.

"Consistent throughout, everything was kind of crisp," Masterson said of that outing. "Unfortunately, Kyle did a little bit better. I do what I can to try and keep it close for the guys."

Masterson will oppose Pittsburgh's James McDonald, who has been charged with just four earned runs in his last 18 innings of work. McDonald has won three straight and five of his last six decisions, but took a no-decision his last time out.

"James gave us what we had with what he had," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after a 5-3 win over the Royals last Saturday. "The fastball command was not where we'd seen it and he had to struggle to find his secondary pitches."

The Indians are 3-6 in Interleague Play this season after going 11-7 against the NL in 2011. The Pirates are 4-5 against the AL this year.

Indians: Brantley on a tear
• Outfielder Michael Brantley has hit safely in a career-high 21 consecutive games.

Brantley's stretch is the longest active hit streak in the Majors and the longest by an Indians hitter since Casey Blake hit safely in 26 straight from May 20-June 17, 2007. His seventh-inning double in Thursday's game against the Reds gave him the longest streak in the Majors since the Braves' Dan Uggla hit safely in 33 straight from July 5 to Aug. 13 last year.

• Cleveland is 16-16 at home this season, winning five of nine and 14 of its last 24 ballgames at Progressive Field after starting the year 2-6 in Cleveland.

Pirates: Morton has Tommy John surgery
• Right-hander Charlie Morton underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday to repair a torn ligament in his elbow and will likely be out for the next 12 to 18 months. The surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.

Morton was placed on the disabled list on June 1 with inflammation in the elbow. Following flat-ground throwing, Morton attempted his first bullpen session on Sunday, yet continual elbow pain prompted a doctor's visit and resulted in the ligament-tear diagnosis.

• Alex Presley has hit safely in seven of his first nine contests since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on June 5. During the nine-game stretch, he is 11-for-41 (.268) with three doubles, one triple, one home run, two RBIs and seven runs.

Worth noting
• The Indians have been in second place in the AL Central for 17 straight days after being in first for 35 consecutive days (sole or shared) from April 24 to May 28.

• Garrett Jones has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games, going 13-for-35 (.371) with two doubles, a triple, two home runs and six RBIs.

• The Pirates are 25-0 when leading after seven innings.

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