Masterson shuts down White Sox in 2-0 win
On Friday, an offensive barrage helped the Indians to halt their six-game losing streak. On Saturday, it was a phenomenal pitching performance that earned the Tribe their second straight victory - a 2-0 win over the Chicago White Sox.
"It was just a great team effort today," Indians starter Justin Masterson said. "Yesterday was an extremely incredible game, lots of offense. Today, it was good all the way around. We took advantage of their mistakes and that was perfect."
Masterson (1-1, 4.01) was the dominant force behind the Indians victory on Saturday, pitching 7.1 innings of scoreless, four-hit baseball and earning his first victory of the 2014 season, but his great effort wasn't without a bit of drama.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead into the fourth inning for their starter, but a throwing error from Indians third basemanLonnie Chisenhall looked as if it could have jump started the White Sox offense.
After loading the bases with a walk to White Sox outfielder Tyler Danks and plunking catcher Tyler Flowers, Masterson turned to his previously less-than-stellar defense for a little pick-me-up and first baseman Nick Swisherdelivered.
A rocket-shot off the bat of White Sox third baseman Marcus Semien forced a diving stop from Swisher, who came up with the ball and tagged first base for the double play, ending the inning and the Chicago scoring threat.
"It was a great play. I think it locked him in because then he made a couple of other great plays over there," Masterson said of Swisher's game-changing moment. "That's the way it was tonight - everyone just picking up for everybody.
"That ball goes through, two runs score. Next thing you know we're down 2-1, but either way it's just nice," Swisher said. "It feels like things are getting good, things are getting positive in here."
A nearly-caught double from White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham set up the second scary scenario for the Tribe, as the American League's most dangerous hitter, Sox first basemanJose Abreu, walked to the plate.
With runners on second and third in the top of the eighth, Allen, unintimidated, fanned Abreu on three pitches and all-but sealed the win for the home team.
"You get strike one, I got strike one. Go to strike two and then I had a couple of pitches to try to put him away," said Allen on his matchup with Abreu. "I just try to stay as calm as possible. I can't throw more than one pitch at one time, so just throw that pitch at that moment and try to get a result."
Allen's manager was certainly impressed with the matchup and his set-up guy.
"He's quickly earned a lot of trust and it's well-deserved," Francona said. "He just competes so well. For a kid that's not so tall in stature, when he gets that fastball down, he can be a pretty good weapon."
John Axford completed the shutout victory with a perfect ninth inning, which earned him his ninth save on the season, giving the Indians their 13th win of the 2014 campaign.
While the dominant pitching certainly took precedent for the Tribe on Saturday, the offense took advantage of multiple White Sox errors to do just enough to get the job done.
In the third, a misplayed infield pop-up by Semien off the bat of right fielder David Murphy allowed Lonnie Chisenhall to score from third, giving the Tribe an early 1-0 lead.
Recent call-up Jose Ramirez got things going again in the fifth when he laid down a bunt that was fielded by Flowers and tossed over the head of Abreu, allowing Ramirez to rumble to second on the error. Left fielder Mike Aviles bunted Ramirez over to third and Swisher brought home the speedy infielder with his team-leading second sacrifice fly of the season.
With all of the defensive miscues the Indians have fought throughout this season, Francona was relieved to see the tables finally turned.
"We caught a break on the pop-up, the wind was blowing like crazy. We caught a break there," Francona said. "And then we manufactured a run, we got a but down and Swish hit a ball good. So, sometimes little things, that's what you gotta do."
It wasn't all roses for the Indians on Saturday, however, as two in-game substitutions were the result of minor injuries to Tribe starters.
First, and maybe most alarmingly, Michael Bourn was replaced by Michael Aviles in the top of the fourth due to tightness in his left hamstring - the same hamstring that has caused him problems going back to last season.
Both injuries seem minor and, according to the Indians, both Giambi and Bourn will be monitored on a day-to-day basis.
Overall, despite the injuries and previous losing streak, things are on the up-and-up for the Tribe, according to Masterson.
"This game is going to be up and down. It's like life, it's up and down, but you gotta be able to just stay at a calm level," Masterson said. "You can't let it bring you down and not let it bring you too high. That's where we've been and we're trying to stay so we can continue to have some good things go our way."
The Indians will look to continue their winning ways on Sunday afternoon as they face off against the White Sox at 1:05 in the final game of this three-game set.
But the Indians won anyway thanks to shutout pitching. As long as the offense scores 12 runs or the pitchers don't allow any runs, we should keep winning in spite of having baseball's worst defense.
Masterson is transitioning nicely into a soft-tossing righty. I don't think he hit 92 mph once last night and his average fastball was in the 87-89 mph range. But he had excellent movement and location, so he didn't need the velocity. He's turning into a 6'6" Josh Tomlin. Hey, it's beats throwing a 97 mph fastball that gets launched into the seats, like Carrasco.