Sox Stifle Masterson and Send to First Loss; Red Sox 6, Indians 3
In Cleveland, it’s easy for losses to pile up and weigh on fans’ shoulders. When teams do poorly, they often quickly write them off as “just another Cleveland sports team” and start repeating the old mantra, “there’s always next year.” The Indians, however, are working hard to prove that this season is not going to be another one to add to the list of let-downs.
Even in their 6-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox tonight, the Indians pulled out some strong moves to keep them in the game. It wasn’t the comeback win that fans were hoping for, but it wasn’t a complete shut-out, either.
Following Tuesday night’s disappointing outing for Ubaldo Jimenez and the subsequent domination of the Indians by the Boston Red Sox, Wednesday night’s loss did not seem quite as heartbreaking. All it took was a little momentum in the bottom of the sixth inning to keep hope alive and show fans that the Indians are not a lost cause.
The game got off to a rough start, despite the presence of Justin Masterson on the mound for the Indians. Masterson entered Wednesday night’s game with a 3-0 record and a 0.41 ERA as well as a career-high 19 innings pitched without allowing any runs.
Unfortunately, Masterson did not bring that 19 up to an even 20 and wound up with his first loss of the season.
“[I threw] some good ones and some bad ones,” Masterson said of his performance. “They were able to put some balls where guys weren’t. They fought hard…I was just trying to make pitches.”
It started with a leadoff single hit for Boston hit by Jacoby Ellsbury. When Shane Victorino was hit by a pitch, Ellsbury advanced to second and then to third following a single by Dustin Pedroia. The Red Sox were on the board not long after when Mike Napoli hit a single grounder to right field, scoring Ellsbury and Victorino. Pedroia scored on a single from Daniel Nava, bring the scores to 3-0 Boston without any outs in the first.
Following a visit to the mound, the Tribe made the next three outs without allowing any additional runs, including a play that had Carlos Santana tagging Napoli out at home. Masterson struck Stephen Drew out to end the inning and bring the Tribe to the plate.
With hindered batting order – second baseman Jason Kipnis is still out with a sore elbow and Michael Bourn has been moved to the 15 day disabled list after receiving five stitches in his right index finger – the Indians attempted retaliation.
On paper, it looked easy enough for the Indians’ bats to dominate Aceves’ erratic pitching. Michael Brantley was hitting in the leadoff spot, followed by Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana. The Indians’ batters fell in the bottom of the first with a 1-2-3 inning for Boston.
The second inning showed much more stability for Masterson. Although Boston had the bases loaded with no outs, a combined effort of solid fielding and more controlled pitching helped Masterson out of a potentially dangerous situation, a pattern that happened twice more in the first four innings.
“They [Boston] made him work really hard,” Terry Francona said of Masterson. “Even though they strung together a lot of hits, he…kept guys to one base at a time and pitched out of it for the most part. He kept battling and kept fighting and we got a chance to win the game.”
The Tribe settled into a groove on the field as the game went on. Masterson allowed 11 hits throughout his five innings pitched and had five strikeouts, but fielders stepped up to help Masterson leave eight men stranded on base. Even when Cabrera bobbled the ball in the bottom of the third inning, he managed to make the throw to first to prevent a single from Stephen Drew.
Batting, though, remained a struggle for the Indians early in the game. Lonnie Chisenhall had a solid hit to right field and tried for a double, but was tagged out following a throw from the accurately-armed Victorino.
The hitting slump came to an end for the Indians in the sixth inning, though, with a home run hit by Nick Swisher also scoring Carlos Santana, followed by a solo home run from veteran Jason Giambi. It was his first hit and first home run with the Indians. Mark Reynolds followed with a double, keeping the momentum going.
Although scoring for the Indians ended with the sixth inning, the brief glimpse of excitement with back-to-back home runs showed fans the promise that is buried underneath the rough exterior of this season’s team.
The remainder of the game showed the Indians working hard in the field to keep Boston from scoring as much as possible. Drew Stubbs appeared to struggle in center field early in the game, with two long hits flying over his head and allowing Boston to get on base. However, he redeemed himself with a catch in the seventh inning that found him sprinting to left center field.
Boston scored once more in the eighth inning on a sacrifice bunt from Victorino coupled with a throwing error by pitcher Joe Smith that brought Ellsbury.
Vinnie Pestano came in in the ninth inning for the Tribe, marking his first time throwing in ten days. Corey Kluber followed Masterson, pitching in the sixth, and Rich Hill was also on the mound, pitching in the seventh for the Indians.
Although they couldn’t turn their efforts into a win, the Indians certainly began to play with vigor as the game went on, hopefully setting themselves up for a powerful final battle against the Red Sox tomorrow night at 7:05 at Progressive Field. Tomorrow’s pitching matchup puts Indians’ RHP Zach McAllister (0-1, 3.00) against Boston’s LHP Jon Lester (2-0, 1.42).
“[Masterson] was throwing strikes, but Boston had a great game plan against him…They had a better game plan than we did,” Mark Reynolds said after the game. “That’s what happens sometimes. It’s baseball; we’ve still got a lot of games left in the season.”
“Some nights are harder than others,” Francona said.
Will tomorrow night be one of those nights? You can watch the game on Fox SportsTime Ohio or tune in to the Cleveland Indians Radio Network tomorrow night to find out as the Indians wrap up their home stand against the Boston Red Sox.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images