Second Thoughts: Game #68 - Reds 1, Indians 8
|W: J. Masterson (4-6) L: B. Arroyo (3-5)|
The Line: 9IP, 3H, 1/0 R/ER. 0BB, 9K, 1GIDP, 1 HBP
The Results: 110 pitches, 69% strikes, 15GB, 3FB, PO, 1LD
The Write-up: Insert your “master” pun here. Justin Masterson dominated the Reds all night and insured that the Indians would split the season series and remain in 1st place in the AL Central. As usual, he worked mainly off of his fastball/sinker and slider. The last inning showed the durability and impressive talent that Justin Masterson possesses. He struck out the side with a high fastball that blew Cozart away, then a wipe-out slider that Chris Heisey just waved at. Finally, he threw the nastiest pitch of the night to get Joey Votto looking; a 95mph sinker that moved more than 10-inches from left to right and perfectly clipped the bottom of the zone. (check out FanGraphs for a fun GIF of the pitch here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-last-pitch-of-justin-mastersons-complete-game/)
Masterson seems to have it rolling now as he has thrown four straight quality starts and has the following four-game line: 29IP, 19H, 5/4 R/ER, 6BB, 27K. Despite those great numbers, he has only gone 2-2 taking tough losses to the Reds and Cardinals. Let’s hope the streak continues as he will be integral to the Indians success once divisional play ramps back up.
The Line: 0 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K
The Results: 0 pitches
The Write-up: Even organized crime needs a night off every once in a while.
The Starting Lineup
The Line: 11/35, 4 2B, 2HR, 6BB, 0 SB, 0 CS
The Results: 8R, 21TB, 19LOB, AVG/OBP/SLG 314/415/600
The Write-up: Predictably, the left-heavy lineup of the Indians (everyone except Lopez and Marson) dominated the soft-tossing righty Bronson Arroyo. Jose Lopez had a double and Lou Marson drew a walk. The other seven hitters (seven lefties) went .370/.469/.741, so it is safe to say that on nights like last night the left-leaning lineup isn’t really a problem. Cabrera’s power stroke returned with another HR and Damon continues his strong play of late going 2/2 with a HR and 2 BB’s. In the month of June he is .268/.362/.463, or said differently, he is finally hitting enough to offset his woefully bad defense.
Lonnie Chisenhall is the real story however. Sure, he hit a bases-clearing double and added another single to boot. Those are all fine and dandy, and I was surprised to see that it was only Chisenhall’s 2nd double on the season (he has 3 HR’s), but with Masterson cruising it was just piling on. No, the real story is a story of firsts. Lonnie Chisenhall drew his first walk of the season, sound the alarms. We can now firmly say that his batting average and OBP are not identical. Lonnie Chisenhall has an AVG of .271 and OBP of .283. In all seriousness, this is a good sign that he drove the ball and waited for his pitch in the same game against the same pitcher. Even more impressive was the fact that the BB came with a full count on a pitch that fluttered across the zone and ran inside. By laying off this pitch, Lonnie demonstrated pitch recognition which is the final piece of the puzzle to his offensive game. He will probably never be a Santana or Hafner type of guy that takes close to a 100 walks a year, but getting in the 60s or 70s would add hugely to his game. Here’s hoping the Indians, who drew six walks and looked like the patient team from the first 40 games, and Lonnie Chisenhall turned a corner last night.
Typically great pitching outings have a handful of great defensive plays that make the stat line of the pitcher read even better than it really was. In this case, the opposite was true. Outside of a good grab by Choo in RF, one where he got turned around and had to twist in mid-air to catch it above his head, the defense was only asked to make routine plays and only needed to turn one routine double play all night. Even the run that scored was pushed across because Asdrubal Cabrera booted a routine groundball immediately before a groundball happened to find a hole on the left-side. Masterson struck out 1/3 of the 27 outs last night and the other 18 didn’t require too much work, but the plays were made and the defense did their job.
Typically, it is easier for the defense to play well when a pitcher works fast and throws strikes. Masterson, Ubaldo and Lowe have all been guilty of walking a lot of guys over the season, but last night proved to be an exception. By throwing nearly 70% strikes and humming right along, Masterson not only pitched well, but he gave his defense the focus and flow that usually leads to good play.
Though we all feel great now, remember how we felt after sweeping the Tigers? The Indians need to get right back to it on Friday and win another series or two to keep the pressure on the White Sox and put some distance on the Tigers. However, don’t forget to enjoy it.
This was a star-performance by a pitcher that could be the Indians meal-ticket to the playoffs. If he and Ubaldo can become the 1-2 punch that gives the Indians an edge in most series', the Tribe could get to play more than 162 games this year. A patient offense that hits for power and a dominant pitching performance by your #1 starter are excellent signs of a playoff-bound team.
Whatever Masterson was doing last night, I hope he can bottle it. That 9th inning was awesome, especially the Votto strikeout.