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Masterson turns a corner, leads Indians over Boston, 3-2

The Tribe right-hander goes seven shutout innings and strikes out 10

Masterson turns a corner, leads Indians over Boston, 3-2
Justin Masterson struggled early, but hung tough for his third victory of the season. (Photo: ESPN)
June 3, 2014
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CLEVELAND--It's no secret Justin Masterson has struggled.

Coming into the game Monday 0-3 with a 8.84 ERA in his last four starts, the Indians ace may have finally turned a corner.

Striking out 10 over seven shutout innings, Masterson (3-4, 4.72 ERA) led the Tribe to a 3-2 victory over the Red Sox in what was his best start of the season.

Early on, things looked pretty bleak for the Indians starter. Issuing walks to four Boston hitters through three innings, Masterson pitched himself in and out of jams from the outset.

"It took him I think 66 pitches to get the first seven outs," manager Terry Francona said.

Each time he ran into trouble though, Masterson would deliever. The right-hander struck out Jonny Gomes to strand the bases loaded in the first and got catcher A.J. Pierzynski to ground into an inning ending double play in the third.

"He was scattering balls, but he made a huge pitch when he had to and it allowed him to settle in," Francona said. "He stayed down, started changing speeds and attacked the strike zone. He got us pretty deep."

Masterson retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced, whiffing 10 batters for the first time this season. In the fourth inning, the right-hander did something no Indians pitcher has ever done, strikeout the side in order on nine pitches.

"I feel liike I've probably thrown 25 balls in a row in one game, but it was nice," Masterson said. "It just felt like I was pounding the zone and then able to put guys away. The best thing about it was I felt decently under control, but being able to do that, confindence was at an all-time high after doing something like that."

Entering play winless against his former team in his last three starts, the win gives him just his third win on the season.

"I haven't been doing as well as I've liked, but I was able to do it tonight," Masterson said. "We're just trying to punch tickets like Corey [Kluber], we're still trying to get to his level."

"We talked a little bit earlier how the first three innings he kind of cruises and then runs into a tough spot," Francona said. "He kind of flipped it tonight, and boy did he ever."

Offensively, Cleveland bats wasted no time against Red Sox starter John Lackey (6-4, 3.28 ERA) striking for two runs in the first inning on a two-run single by Lonnie Chisenhall. The Tribe third baseman continues to stay red hot at the plate, leading all of baseball among players with at least 135 at-bats hitting an even .360 on the season.

They would strike for another run two innings later in the third. A leadoff triple by Michael Bourn set the stage for Asdrubal Cabrera to drive him home with an RBI base-hit through the right side.

"It almost seemed like it energized the guys," Masterson said. "After we get out of that jam, we score a few runs and then put on another run later, that in itself kind of helped things out."

Collecting two more hits Monday, Bourn extends his hitting streak to six straight, recording at least one hit in 15 of his last 16 games.

"I'm just trying to take it one day at a time," Bourn said. "Not trying to do too much, just trying to simplify the game. See the ball and hit the ball, and working on things in the cage and hoping it carries over into the game."

Since May 14, the center fielder is hitting .358 (24-for-67) with three doubles, one triple, two homers and five RBI over his last 19 games.

"He makes us go," Francona said. "He set the tone tonight. First pitch he takes off and steals a bag, then hits a triple. You can see how much he's enjoying that aspect and he should be. When he goes like that, we can be a different team."

Like his opponent, Lackey quickly settled in, tossing a full eight innings of work giving up just the three runs on eight hits. "He's kind of reinvented himself after having Tommy John," right fielder David Murphy said. "It almost seems like he came back better. You don't see many guys go a complete game and lose."

Murphy tagged Lackey for three hits Monday, going 3-for-3 in the game to raise his average to .282 this year.

"More than anything I just found holes," Murphy said. "Just trying to put the sweet spot on the ball and sometimes good things happen."

"Lackey threw a great game tonight," Francona said. "We scratched a couple early and hung on, but he's the Lackey of old right now."

The Boston right-hander wouldn't get any run support until the eighth, once the Red Sox offense got into the Tribe bullpen. Bryan Shaw relieved Masterson in the eighth, but to no avail as the BoSox scraped across two runs on a two-run homer by shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

"I think those should've been my earned runs tonight," Francona said. "I told Shaw if he goes to arbitration to take me with you, tell him I shouldn't have pitched you that much tonight."

Marc Rzepcynski secured the one-run lead getting nine-time All-Star David Ortiz to fly out to deep center to end the eighth. One inning later, Cody Allen notched his fourth save tossing a scoreless ninth, getting former Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore to pop out to third to end the ballgame.

"I was a kid when he was here at his peak," Allen said. "To be able to get him out for the 27th out was pretty cool."

Sizemore went 0-for-4 in his first game against his old team, playing at his old stomping grounds for the first time since 2011.

Indians starters improve to 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA in their last turn through the rotation, surrendering only 21 hits in 32 1/3 innings and striking out 46.

"It ain't no secret, that's baseball," Bourn said. "If you have good pitching, you got a chance. I think we have a pretty good lineup, but good pitching with good defense behind it, you're always going to keep yourself in the ballgame."

The win gives Cleveland (28-30) their fourth straight victory, having won seven straight at Progressive Field for an American League best 19-11 home record. Since 2013, the Tribe owns an A.L. best 70-41 record at the corner of Carneige and Ontario.

"At home it's been really nice," Masterson said. "We were fundamentally sound tonight, and we did what we were supposed to. We pitched pretty good and we put some runs on the board. Guys were battling."

Scoring three runs Monday, it marks just the fifth time in 29 games the Tribe was able to pull out a victory despite scoring three runs or fewer.

Up next for Indians: The Wahoo's look to win their fifth straight Tuesday night in the middle game of the three-game series with Boston. Making his third big league start, lefty T.J. House (0-1, 4.05 ERA) will be opposed by Red Sox right-hander Jake Peavy (1-2, 4.50 ERA) at 7:05 p.m.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at

User Comments

June 3, 2014 - 5:18 PM EDT
The odd thing with Carrasco, is he was used last year by Francona in some tight spots, I specifically remember him being in a game against KC in Sept that was close late, but now Francona just doesn't use him. Even in situations that call for a long man. Even though he's actually been pretty effective this year and last out of the bullpen. Using Shaw last night was just a weird move, 3 run lead, would've been the perfect time for Axford. That's the nice thing about having Axford in a setup role, if he doesn't have it and walks a guy, just take him out. But if he goes in there throwing strikes you're good. Francona had a Cody Allen addiction last year, he has a Shaw addiction this year.
June 3, 2014 - 12:34 PM EDT
*don't need two of those types..
June 3, 2014 - 12:33 PM EDT
Carrasco is the long-man. You don't need of those types so Lowe as a long-man, whether he could do it or not, is kind of irrelevant.

Was an arm to help out a battered pen, nothing more. Starters have been going deeper.
June 3, 2014 - 12:10 PM EDT
It was sooo nice to see Grady Sizemore playing again at the Jake. He looks and sounds great. I only saw highlights on Baseball Tonite. It seemed like the fans were indifferent when he came up for his first AB, maybe incognizant is more the word. Then I looked closely at the people in the stands and thought- perhaps these are the FAS children of the people who attended 10cent beer night in '74. Okay, whoever figures out what FAS stands for you are not one of them.
June 3, 2014 - 11:40 AM EDT

93-95 isn't bad for what we need him to do. IF you're not sincere in giving guys a legit chance to ptich/succeed then why waste your time with them?? Playing muscial chairs with the ptiching is asinine. I believe Tito is making these decisions and it's not helping. Show confidence in these guys, give them a decent amount of work and if they don't succeed after awhile then make a change. Not pitching or sending them down after one bad outing is stupid. IF Tito is making these decision then CA needs to reign him in and start taking control of this.

Back to Mark Lowe. For a guy who we would've depended on to be a long guy or occasional short guy like ALbers I wasn't convinced that he couldn't do it. To me would've filled the ALbers role in the pen which is valuable. 93-95 is wHAT Albers was doing and don't see what the issue was with Lowe. IT's not like we were asking him to fulfill a closers job just come in and eat up some innings to take the innings off of the other guys. You can say the same with Ax and Carrasco. These guys are under utilized.

Yes we disagree on Carrasco but we both agree that Tito running away from the issue is even a bigger problem because he's going to kill Shaw and Allen in the process
June 3, 2014 - 11:30 AM EDT
Hiram, there is a reason Lowe was released in spring training and only got a minor league deal this past offseason and with the indians after he was released. He was bad last year. He's just never really been the same pitcher since his back injury in 2010. He was bad in 2010, okay in 2011, below average in 2012 and awful in 2013. His stuff is not as good and his velocity is down from what it was when he was very effective in 2008-2009. His average FB velocity then was aroudn 95-96 MPH each year. This year he was average 92.7 in limited time with the Indians and last year was 93 MPH. He used to regularly top out at 98-99 and now is topping out at 93-95.
June 3, 2014 - 11:26 AM EDT
2009 he was decent and you could argue decent in 2011 (K-rate was nice) but that's it.
June 3, 2014 - 11:12 AM EDT

you might want to look closer at the career numbers of Mark Lowe. He's had good seasons in years '09 - '12.
June 3, 2014 - 11:02 AM EDT

Lowe hasn't been good in the big leagues since 2009, and even then wasn't all that special.

Agree mostly with Tony here, though I'd look to trade Axford in two weeks....I mean, if Bryan Morris is worth the 39th pick in the draft, Axford has to have some value right? ha
June 3, 2014 - 10:54 AM EDT
Tito is perfect for this team He doesn't panic and give his players every opportunity to right themselves, that is not stubbornness. I agree with Tony its time to sink or swim with both Axford and Carrasco I personally think Carrasco has the same mental makeup of another closer we had, Jose Mesa. I recall Tony Pena walk out to the mound and pound Mesa in the head with his mitt. I think Gomes can have the same effect on Carrasco, give him the ball and tell him let it fly for one inning, he has nice off speed stuff to compliment that high 90 heater. Once his mind wanders let Gomes go out and give him the Tony Pena pep talk.
June 3, 2014 - 10:41 AM EDT

Lowe has had some good years in MLB and need a way bigger sample than what he was givien to determine his effectiveness. To give him that small sample and then send him down shows me something not to positive about the decision making. In the case of Axford I agree with you. He as been in low leverage situations and has been good. It's time for him to graduate to the 7th inning to see if he can keep up the good work and ditto for Carrasco. You must give these guys a chance to see if they've straightened themselves out.

Jake and I were talking about Axford and marveled at the fact that his breaking ball is outstanding and fastball command seems to be improving but Tito rewards him with the good outings by not using him for an entire week. Similar story with Carrasco. Remember where the adjustment wasn't being made and he was losing velocity. Carrasco now is consistently 98 MPH and has been very good out of the pen and he hasn't pitched in a week.

Come on these guys have been good and you have no reason to shy away. Give someone else a chance is all I ask
June 3, 2014 - 10:29 AM EDT
Hiram, Lowe was not reliable. 10 baserunners in 5 innings is not very good for a reliever. Axford has been better, but he's also been pitching mostly in low leverage situations. It is time to either put him back in the closer role and sink or swim with him or just release him. He has no use in any other role. As for Carrasco, I am not sure I agree he is a late inning reliever, but he should be pitching more 6th and 7th inning opportunities when they come up. He is rarely used. I don't have much confidence in Axford and Carrasco, but even so, you have to use them to either regain or instill confidence in them or find out once and for all that you can't use them and just move on.
June 3, 2014 - 10:23 AM EDT
The problem isn't the relievers not doing their job the problem is Tito is too stubborn to use them and know when to use them. Like I mentioned before Carrasco, Lowe and Axford all have been good recently and absolutely no reason for Tito to shy away from them outside of pure stubbornness and we've all seen this before with Tito. Keeping Kipnis in the three hole, Swisher in the two hole, Santana in the cleanup hole, "giving" Santana the 3B job, inexplicably removing Carrasco from the rotation when he was more effective than Salazarand improving then keeping McAllister in the rotation for 5-6 horrific starts, Many other questionable moves by Tito.

Tito is exceptional and getting guys to play for him but knowing when to make decisions, his unbridled loyalty, stubbornness has gotten in the way of victories for the Indians
June 3, 2014 - 10:16 AM EDT
Indians hitting in the clutch still a major problem. Last night they had a chance to score more than 3 runs but hitting into 3 DP which kept Lackey in the game and he end up pitching the whole game. If they succeeded in scoring more than 3 runs there would been a chance that Shaw would have not been used last night.

Need to also solve this problem. When you have to many close games you are going to burn out your bullpen.

I do agree with Tony that the Indians can not afford keep 2 guys in the bullpen and not use them. Like to see both Lee and Crockett back to strengthen the bullpen.
June 3, 2014 - 10:14 AM EDT
Even when healthy, please don't put McALlister back in the rotation. I think House and Carrasco deserve to be put in that spot for the long haul. I think McALlister is best in a long role where the pressure isn't nearly as much and he can concentrate on just giving innings and not winning games
June 3, 2014 - 10:11 AM EDT
Tito is severely mismanaging the bullpen. He keeps on tusing the same guys in Allen and Sgadone haw and not using Lowe/Hagadone, Carrasco and Axford. In the Case of Carrasco and Axford both have been good in the last three outings for each and no reason for Tito to shy away from them. In the Case of Carrasco IMO he has graduated from the long RP role and should be either a starter or a late inning workhorse. Axford should be a horse too.

I chalk this up to yet another one of the strange decisions by Tito and the FO in how they are managing this team. They have been as big of an issue with poor decisions as any consistent player.
June 3, 2014 - 9:36 AM EDT
This is the problem when you keep two guys around in the pen in Carrasco and Axford that you don't trust. It is time to either use them or move on from them and bring someone like Lee back up.
June 3, 2014 - 9:33 AM EDT
"Shaw and Scrabbble lead the AL in appearances and Allen is only one behind. Tito admits he's overused Shaw.

This is potentially a serious problem. At some point these guys are going to burn out. "

The mind boggling part of this is we are carrying 8 relievers!
June 3, 2014 - 9:27 AM EDT
Masterson is showing that it is pitch movement and location which matters most. Sure, velocity helps if you do the aforementioned stuff.....but wow was he crazy good last night, especially once he shook off his early game wildness. I still believe that he sticks with the Indians after this season.

As for Bourn, his play has been nice of late. He's still nowhere near worth the deal he got as even though he is hitting .294 he is still only around average as far as getting on base (.341) which is what leadoff hitters are expected to do. Add in the fact he can't run, can't bunt and is maybe a slightly above average defender, and he sure as hell better be hitting the cover off the ball because it will cover up those other issues. The problem is he won't stay hot like this for long and when he cools off his other issues will still be there....
June 3, 2014 - 8:31 AM EDT
Shaw and Scrabbble lead the AL in appearances and Allen is only one behind. Tito admits he's overused Shaw.

This is potentially a serious problem. At some point these guys are going to burn out.

Francona needs to start using the guys that have disappointed so far in hopes they can take some of the load off the big three. They brought up Hagadone just for the Red Sox series because they have a lot of lefties. They need to use Axford and Carrasco more, even though it's a gamble any time either of them takes the mound. We can't get to the playoffs using only four relievers.

Masterson was amazing, especially throwing 25 strikes in a row and also striking out the side on nine pitches, which has never been done in team history. That includes Feller, McDowell, Tiant - everybody.

You'd think that with the decrease in his fastball velocity he'd be striking out fewer batters, but that wasn't the case last night. It could have been an aberration, but it's possible he's getting more movement and better command at the lower velocity. He was pounding the strike zone once he got into his rhythm and his stuff was unhittable.

Hopefully with Salazar and Carrasco being replaced by Tomlin and Bauer, the load on the bullpen will be diminished.

I hope Bourn is for real and not just on a hot streak. Last year was so disappointing. He says his hamstring is feeling better and with the warm weather we might see him going for more steals. Seeing him get a triple and a stolen base in the same game is very encouraging.

The Tribe has a shot at having one of the best BigThree's in baseball with Masterson, Kluber, and Bauer if they keep pitching they way they did in their last starts. And McAllister and Tomlin are better than most team's 4-5 starters. McAllister was a dominant starter before his back started acting up.
June 3, 2014 - 7:44 AM EDT
Nice win by the Wahoos..

Masterson wasn't so masterful for the start of the game.. but once he settled.. he was the guy who led the team last year.. His slider is so effective, it is nearly unhittable..

Michael Bourn/David Murphy.. Superlatives are inadequate.. Bourn, now appearing to be fully healthy, has become the lead off guy the Indians envisioned when they signed him to his bargain level deal.. Ditto to what Murph has become.. He ALWAYS hit the ball well at Jaccob's/Progressive Field.. He's not disappointing..

Three days in a row.. one pitch left up and Shaw gave up the shutout.. Xander Bogaerts did what he's supposed to do with that pitch..

Cody Allen.. slammed/hammered/welded the door shut.. His outing was particularly impressive.. Finishing the game against Grady was bittersweet...

Onto game two.. we'll see if a bigger (TJ) House can be built on his last performance.. this against one tough hombre..Peavy can be flat out nasty.. More people are expected at the park tonight for Michael Bourn Bobble Head night.. Another win would be nice..

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