Masterson and Bats Help Take Series For Tribe; Indians 6, Orioles 2
By Mike Brandyberry
It started perfect and still finished pretty good, when Justin Masterson locked up the Baltimore Orioles for seven innings and the offense took advantage of a struggling southpaw starter to win 6-2 and take three out of four games in the series.
Masterson pitched seven strong innings, but carried a perfect game into the fifth inning, while Shelley Duncan and Aaron Cunningham each hit early, solo homers to send the Indians home on a hot streak.
“A nice bounce back to finish the road trip that started in such an ugly way,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “We swung the bats well early in the game and had some quality at bats. Masterson was dominant the majority of the game.”
The Indians continued their assult on left-handed pitching in this series when they struck early. Duncan hit a solo home run off Orioles starter Brian Matusz in the second inning. Duncan had a big series, with home runs in each of the last two games. He attributes the turnaround to relaxing and being more aggressive at the plate.
“I’m not really trying to do anything special,” Duncan said. “I had a couple good teammates remind me to be aggressive at the plate.”
Cunningham followed suit with a solo shot of his own in the top of the third to give the Tribe an early 2-0 lead after three innings. It was Cunningham’s first home run of the season and his teammates gave him the silent treatment when he entered the dugout.
“I kinda expected it because it’s been a while,” Cunningham said.” I just ran down the tunnel to the air conditioners for a while.”
Cleveland widened the gap in the fourth inning when Jose Lopez led off with a double off the left center field wall. Duncan followed with a double of his own, a one bounce smash past Robert Andino at third base and down the left field line to score Lopez. Casey Kotchman made it three straight when he doubled off the right center field wall to score Duncan, giving the Tribe a 4-0 lead.
They weren’t done in the inning, however. Jason Donald walked and a passed ball advanced Kotchman to third base when Lou Marson flew out to right field for what appeared to be a routine sacrifice fly. Orioles right fielder Chris Davis dropped the ball preparing to transition to throw. Kotchman would score easily and Donald would be forced out at second base via a fielder’s choice. The run would give the Tribe a 5-0 lead. Today was the third straight left-handed pitcher the Indians have beaten in Baltimore.
“You’re never as good as some people think, or as bad as some other people think you are,” Acta said. “As of now only Cabrera and Brantley have been able to hit left handers but we have guys who have done it in the past like Choo and Shelley and that’s what they did today.”
After Asdrubal Cabrera singled through the left side and Jason Kipnis walked to start the fifth inninig, Matusz was removed from the game pitching four innings, allowing seven hits, five runs—four earned—while walking three and striking out two. He allowed two home runs. Miguel Gonzalez replaced Matusz and immediately induced Jose Lopez into a 6-4-3 to kill any rally and hold the score.
Baltimore finally cracked the hit column and the scoreboard in the fifth inning when Adam Jones reached on a Jason Donald error. Jones stole second base while Jim Thome struck out and moved to third on Wilson Betemit’s ground ball to shortstop. With two out and two strikes, Ryan Flaherty flared a base hit over Donald’s head and in front of Cunningham to give Baltimore a hit and a run. Masterson would allow another hit to Ronny Paulino, but minimize the damage, holding the lead at 5-1.
“He was in command the whole day,” Acta said. “He was able to throw the four seam by guys whenever he wanted to at 95-96, good sink on his two seam and a pretty good slider. We felt that from the beginning when we scored those runs it would be tough for him to not hold that lead.”
The Orioles would scratch a little closer in the sixth inning when J.J. Hardy singled with one out and advanced to second base when Masterson uncorked a wild pitch. After Davis struck out swinging, Jones lined a two-out double to the right centerfield gap to score Hardy and cut the lead to 5-2 after six innings.
“It was extra warm and the fastball was coming on really good early on,” Masterson said. “We weren’t necessarily hitting our spots, but we were wild in the zone. It was good. The ball was moving and slicing and that what we want to do.”
Masterson would rebound and work a scoreless seventh inning before his day was finished. He took a perfect game into the fifth inning and controlled the Orioles offense for most of the afternoon. Masterson pitched seven innings, allowing only five hits, two runs—only one earned—and striking out seven. He threw 97 pitches, throwing 65 strikes, showing signs that his June rebound is heading into July very nicely.
The Tribe would tack on an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning when Cabrera doubled to the left centerfield wall with one out. Kipnis followed with a broken bat base hit over the third baseman’s head to drive home Cabrera and make the score 6-2. His shattered bat flew at least 200 feet, landing down the right field line in the seats.
After Kipnis stole second base and Jack Hannahan, replacing Lopez for defense, was walked Gonzalez was removed from the game for Kevin Gregg who uncorked a wild pitch, then intentionally walked Michael Brantley and induced Kotchman into a double play. Gonzalez really slowed the Indians bats that started the game so hot. He pitched four and one-third innings, allowing only the late ninth inning run, on four hits, walking three and striking out five.
Vinnie Pestano worked a scoreless eighth inning, striking out two of the three hitters he faced and Chris Perez closed the door in the ninth inning for the victory. The win completes the Indians’ 10-game road trip at 4-6. The trip is their longest of the season.
The Tribe will return home hot off their series victory of the Orioles to take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tomorrow. Ubaldo Jimenez (7-6, 4.69 ERA) will take the mound for the Indians on Monday, while Jeff Weaver (8-1, 2.31 ERA) will try to slow down the Indian offense. Game time is slated for 7:05 at Progressive Field and can be seen on SportsTime Ohio and heard on AM-1100 WTAM and the Indians Radio Network.
Photo: Greg Fiume/Getty Images