Second Thoughts Game #13: Red Sox 6, Indians 3
Red Sox get to Masterson, hand him first loss
After watching Ubaldo Jimenez on Tuesday, I was happy to know Justin Masterson would be taking the hill in this game. In the last five games the Indians had only scored more than two runs once, Saturday’s 9-4 victory over Chicago. With the offense scuffling, a strong starting pitching performance seemed necessary to give the team a chance to even up the series.
The Whole Nine
1. I’ve watched Justin Masterson closely all year, and despite the final product, I didn’t think his stuff was that bad in this game. If you just looked at the box score you would be concerned about the 11 hits over five innings, but it wasn’t as bad as it seems. He left more balls up in the zone than previous starts, but the Red Sox hitters hit some great pitches and had some luck in others finding a hole. I don’t think this start changes anything. Masterson still looks very good.
2. One thing that should be noted is that John Farrell packed the Red Sox lineup with six left-handed hitters and they accounted for eight of their 11 hits against Masterson. While Masterson was able to limit lefties in his first three starts, this one should serve as a reminder that he could struggle at times against lefty-heavy lineups.
3. One last note on Masterson. It was encouraging watching him pitch out of trouble in the second and fourth innings. On a day like this, you like to see your starter at least get through five innings and keep the game close. Masterson did that and could have left with the score just 3-0 if it wasn’t for a misplayed ball in center by Drew Stubbs. He kept his composure throughout and saved the bullpen in a game that could have conceivably been broken wide open in the first or second inning.
4. If you didn’t know any better, you would think it was the Indians that spurned Shane Victorino and not the other way around. He’s had some great, and clutch, plays defensively that saved multiple extra base hits for the Sox just in this series. The money the Indians would have spent for Victorino may or may not have taken them out of the running for Nick Swisher, but some questioned why the Indians were even offering Victorino that type of money. So far, the returns for the Red Sox are good.
5. The biggest at-bat of the game was in the fifth inning when Asdrubal Cabrera came up with two outs and the bases loaded. Cabrera smoked a ball to right field but Victorino made another great catch to rob Cabrera and the Indians of multiple runs. You hear it all the time, but when you’re struggling the hits never seem to fall. This could have been what Cabrera needed to get going, but instead he finishes 0-4 and is hitting just .118 on the year. A lot of his struggles have just been plain bad luck. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) heading into the game was just .133.
6. I’m still figuring out what to make of Lonnie Chisenhall. On the bright side, his defense at third base has looked good. Unfortunately, his plate discipline is still a huge problem. Chisenhall has had some terrible at-bats over the last week. It was nice to see him hit three balls hard during this game, including getting close to a game-tying home run in the sixth. On the flip side, he was thrown out easily trying to stretch a hit down the first-base line into a double. The play at second base wasn’t even close. You have to be smarter than that. With the struggles this team has had offensively, you can’t give away what would have been a leadoff single.
7. After Jason Giambi’s home run I got a text from a friend who is a Boston Red Sox fan, which read, “Seriously man, I didn’t even know Jason Giambi was still alive.” Alive he is, but we’ll see for how long. His bat speed has definitely fallen off. Hopefully he’ll be able to stay fresh and provide situational power, but if the injuries stack up or the team falls out of contention I doubt they’ll be able to keep a part-time DH all season.
8. One item of note, advanced fielding metrics point to a much improved team defensively thus far. It’s hard to put much stock into any numbers this early, especially fielding numbers, but right now Fangraphs has Asdrubal Cabrera as the only Indian starter that’s a negative defender. The best have been Swisher and Michael Bourn. That matches up pretty well with the eye test.
9. In the ninth inning Vinnie Pestano threw eight pitches, all for strikes, and struck out two batters in the process. I feel after a third straight loss we should end ‘The Whole Nine’ on a positive note. So, there you go.
For the second time on the young season the Indians dropped their third straight game. There were some positives to take away from this game. I would have loved to have seen another dominant performance from Masterson, but sometimes a pitcher doesn’t have it. On days like that, this is the type of start you like to see. He battled hard to keep his team in the game, and never let the game get away. That’s the sign of a matured pitcher. We have some other starters who could take notes.
Another positive was Lonnie Chisenhall’s game, minus the boneheaded running play, and the bullpen once again looked pretty good. The Indians will try to salvage the last game of their homestand with Zach McAllister up next against Jon Lester.