Boston, meanwhile, is mired in a slump of its own, having dropped five of its last seven games since winning four straight against the Yankees and Tigers to end July. The Red Sox arrive in Cleveland two games under .500 and sit behind five teams in the American League Wild Card standings.
One positive for the Red Sox going into the series opener is Thursday's starter Felix Doubront, who has provided one of the few bright spots for the Sox during their disappointing campaign. Doubront has a team-leading 10 wins in his first year as a starter and is a perfect 5-0 with a 3.82 ERA in six starts against the AL Central -- one of which was a May 12 victory against the Indians.
"Felix Doubront is a first-year starter in the American League East in Boston, Mass.," manager Bobby Valentine said when assessing Doubront's performance this season. "We want to look at a perfect, finished product in a guy who is doing an outstanding job. I'm not looking at perfection. I've seen a great deal of excellence and I love the excellence that I see, and I think we can build on that."
The Indians will counter with Ubaldo Jimenez, who has epitomized their second-half struggles. The right-hander is 0-4 in his five starts since the All-Star break, sporting a 10.90 ERA in those four losses.
In the one no-decision, Jimenez tossed six shutout innings against the rival Tigers, but he sandwiched that outing between four in which he allowed at least five runs each time out. The latest setback came Saturday against those same Tigers, as Jimenez was tagged for six runs on seven hits and four walks over just 5 1/3 innings.
Even with the poor results, Jimenez insists he still feels as if he has his good stuff on the mound.
"To tell you the truth, I felt really good," Jimenez said after Saturday's 6-1 loss. "I was able to let it go and you saw my breaking ball. The only thing is that I think they were better."
Red Sox: Ortiz hoping to return this weekend
If all goes well, David Ortiz plans to return to the Boston lineup at some point during the club's series in Cleveland.
Ortiz, out since July 17 with an ailing right Achilles, did some baserunning and took indoor batting practice prior to Wednesday's series finale with the Rangers.
The team has gone 9-13 without Ortiz, who is hitting .316 on the season, with 23 home runs and 58 RBIs.
Indians: Hafner undergoes MRI on back
Indians slugger Travis Hafner underwent an MRI on his back Wednesday and the club plans to meet prior to Thursday's game against the Red Sox to evaluate his status.
Hafner, who sat out his third straight game Wednesday with a stiff back, also missed a game last Saturday with the injury that he said flared up in a game last Tuesday.
Hafner is hitting .239 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs, while playing just 60 games so far this season.
Adrian Gonzalez is just 5-for-27 (.185) with 11 strikeouts in his career against Jimenez.
Cleveland has gone 1-3 against Boston so far this season after posting a 6-4 mark against the Red Sox in 2011.