Masterson Snaps Tribe Losing Streak, Again; Indians 3, Yankees 1
By Mike Brandyberry
If you need to snap a losing streak, call Justin Masterson.
The side-winding right hander pitched into the seventh inning, stifling the New York Yankees and snapping the Indians’ nine game losing streak, winning 3-1 in front of a crowd of 34,374. Masterson used big relief appearances by Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez to best veteran Hiroki Kuroda, who shut down the Indian offense, except for one mistake.
“It just stinks losing,” Masterson said about seeing this streak die. “It’s not necessarily the streak of it, just the loss in general. After you lose, you just think how can you win tomorrow.”
Masterson’s (10-11) victory is the third losing streak he has snapped in the last month. He ended a four game losing skid on July 23, followed by the end of the 11-game losing streak on August 8 and now tonight.
“A great pitched ballgame,” Indians Manager Manny Acta said. “Outstanding job by Masterson, he continues to be the go-to guy whenever we are going through tough times to get us out of it.”
Cleveland took the lead early in the bottom of the first inning when Jason Kipnis was drilled in the shoulder by Kuroda to lead off the inning. After Asdrubal Cabrera grounded weakly to second base to advance Kipnis, Shin-Soo Choo drew a one-out walk. Carlos Santana turned a 3-0 count into a strikeout for the second out of the inning. Just when it looked like the Tribe would squander a golden opportunity, Michael Brantley lined a home run into the right field seats.
Brantley’s home run was his sixth of the season and gave the Indians a 3-0 lead after one inning. It was the first time Cleveland led in a game since the fifth inning of Monday’s series opener in Seattle.
“We threw strikes today and luckily we were able to get a lead early and hang on to it,” Brantley said.
The Tribe had a chance to extend their lead in the second inning when Jack Hannahan singled to left and Lou Marson walked to put runners on first and second base with only one out. However, a Kipnis grounder to the right side that appeared headed for the outfield was stabbed by Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeira and forced Marson out at second base. Cabrera could not find a two-out base hit and the rally was squelched.
Meanwhile Masterson cruised through the veteran Yankees’ lineup. He didn’t allow a hit until two outs in the top of the fourth when Robinson Cano’s double just missed the outstretched glove of Ezequiel Carrera.
He did work out of a mini-jam in the fifth inning when Eric Chavez and Russell Martin had back-to-back singles with one out. Raul Ibanez hit a one bounce grounder that could have snuck through the infield, but Masterson knocked it down, scrambled and threw him out just in time to keep the Yankees scoreless. Masterson finished the inning with a battle against Ichiro Suzuki, resulting in a deep fly out to centerfield to end the inning.
New York cracked the scoreboard in the top of the sixth inning, but this time Masterson avoided disaster when Derek Jeter singled, Nick Swisher walked and Cano singled to load the bases with no one out. Teixeira hit a sacrifice fly to deep centerfield allowing Jeter to score, but Brantley’s throw to second base was wide of the bag and both runners were able to advance and eliminate the double play.
“Those first four innings were very impressive,” Acta said. “He got into a little issue there in the sixth inning, but he worked himself out of it. He gave us a very good outing.”
After Curtis Granderson walked, Chavez hit a line drive to third base that was stabbed by Hannahan. Had the sure-handed third baseman not been positioned perfectly the liner would have most likely scored two runs and tied the game, instead Masterson would get out of the jam with minimal damage when Martin flew out to deep right field.
The Yankees made one last attempt to get the best of Masterson in the seventh inning when after he retired the first two hitters, Jeter flared his second hit of the evening to right field. Swisher followed with a hit of his own, chasing Masterson from the game. Acta elected to go to Pestano in the seventh inning to face Cano, but he would work an eight pitch walk to load the bases before Pestano sawed off Teixeira and he popped to third to end the inning.
“I was trying to settle him down and I wanted him to know that if he hit his best pitch, I could sleep better tonight,” Acta said in regards to his trip to the mound when Pestano was 2-0 on Teixeira. “I didn’t want to see him hitting his second pitch.”
Masterson finished the game pitching six and two-third innings, allowing the one earned run, while scattering seven hits, walking two and striking out six.
“He’s our guy,” Acta said. “He’s our number one guy and he’s got the stuff to do this more times than not. He’s human, but he can do this more times than not. We feel every five days he can do this.”
Pestano remained in the game and worked a three-up, three-down eighth inning. Kuroda (12-9) on the other hand, settled in and pitched a complete game, only allowing four hits, walking two and striking out six hitters, but the one mistake was the home run to Brantley in the first inning. Kuroda only allowed two hits after the first two innings.
Perez slammed the door in the ninth inning, retiring all three batters he faced for his 33rd save, including striking out Jeter to end the game.
“Power pitching and three run homers always get it done, it feels good,” Acta said.
Cleveland will try to take two out of three from the Yankees on Sunday afternoon when Ubaldo Jimenez (9-12, 5.59 ERA) matches up with Freddy Garcia (7-5, 4.96 ERA). Game time is slated for 1:05 pm from Progressive Field and can be seen on SportsTime Ohio and heard on the Indians Radio Network.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images