Masterson turns a corner, leads Indians over Boston, 3-2
The Tribe right-hander goes seven shutout innings and strikes out 10
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.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Was an arm to help out a battered pen, nothing more. Starters have been going deeper.
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
you might want to look closer at the career numbers of Mark Lowe. He's had good seasons in years '09 - '12.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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....
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.
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..