Bullpen Spoils Solid Masterson Start; Blue Jays 3, Indians 2
Mike B. | On 18, Apr 2014
When a team’s struggling, it seems nothing can go right.
And that was the case Friday evening when it appeared Justin Masterson and Carlos Santana were each working out of their early season slumps. Masterson and Drew Hutchison locked up in an early pitcher’s duel and Santana gave the Indians the lead on a two-run home run in the sixth. However, the normally reliable Indians bullpen could not hold the lead and the Toronto Blue Jays won a tightly contested game, 3-2.
Masterson bounced back to make a quality start after two poor outings. Santana’s homer was his first of the season and looked to break him out of his slump. Santana indicated this week the position change to third base had affected his hitting. Marc Rzepczynski, however, could not hold the lead—letting another game slide away from the Tribe despite a late rally attempt.
Masterson and the Tribe danced out of trouble in the third inning. Ryan Goins reached safely on an infield hit with one out. Melky Cabrera followed with a single before Masterson was able to strike out Munenori Kawasaki, but then Jose Bautista walked to load the bases. However, the Indians’ big right-hander struck out Edwin Encarnacion to keep the game scoreless.
But Cleveland couldn’t dance around trouble again in the fourth inning. Colby Rasmus laced a double to deep center field with one out for Toronto and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. With the infield pulled in, Brett Lawrie hit a dribbler toward shortstop. Neither Santana nor Asdrubal Cabrera could make a play. Santana tried to bare-hand the ball, but dropped it and Rasmus scored easily. Lawrie was safe at first base, but Masterson retired Moises Sierra and Goins to end the innings. Toronto, however, had a 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Hutchison danced out of trouble using the strikeout. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Michael Brantley started the inning with a single to right field and stole second base, but could advance no farther. Hutchison struck out Cabrera, David Murphy and Yan Gomes to end the inning. Through four innings, Hutchison had struck out seven.
After five innings, and just five hits, the Indians finally broke through in the sixth inning. Jason Kipnis started the inning with an infield hit that bounced off the plate before Santana ripped a two-run home run into the seats in right field. The homer was Santana’s first of the season and just his second and third runs batted in. Another struggling Tribesman, Asdrubal Cabrera, tripled off the wall in left field to chase Hutchison from the game. Steve Delabar (1-0) came on in relief to get Gomes to pop out and Lonnie Chisenhall to strike out, but Cleveland had the lead, 2-1.
The Tribe’s lead was short-lived, though. After Masterson retired Sierra and walked Goins, Indians manager Terry Francona summoned the left-hander Rzepczynski (0-1) from the Indians’ bullpen to face Melky Cabrera. Already 3-for-3, Cabrera tallied his fourth hit of the evening and Kawasaki singled to center field to tie the game. Rzepczynski was done after just two hitters in favor of Cody Allen.
But after Gomes threw wildly to first base, the two runners were able to advance to scoring position, forcing Allen to intentionally walk Bautista. Gomes fifth error in just 16 games this season set the stage for Encarnacion to single to center field, scoring another run and Toronto re-took the lead, 3-2. Dioner Navarro chopped into a double play to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Masterson suffered a tough-luck, no-decision, pitching six and one-third innings, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out nine.
Cleveland had a chance to respond in the bottom of the seventh inning off the Blue Jays’ Brett Cecil when Nick Swisher walked and Kipnis singled to center field, but Santana struck out looking and Brantley bounced out to second base. Kipnis had three hits in the game.
Neil Wagner worked a three-up, three-down eighth inning for Toronto. Scott Atchison did the same for Cleveland in the eighth. Josh Outman retired the first two outs in the ninth inning before giving way to C.C. Lee.
The Indians had one last attempt to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning against Toronto’s closer, Sergio Santos. Lonnie Chisenhall started the inning with a double off the wall, but could not advance when Michael Bourn was unable to bunt him over. Bourn and Swisher each struck out, but Kipnis and Santana drew walks to load the bases. With the winning run on second base, Cleveland’s best hitter—Brantley—laced a ball right at Encarnacion. The Blue Jays first baseman knocked it down and recovered to step on the bag in time and seal the win for Toronto. Cleveland was 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position for the game and stranded 12 base runners.
Cleveland has now lost five of their last seven games. The Indians will try to get back on track tomorrow when Corey Kluber (1-1, 5.40) takes the mound for the Tribe. Toronto will counter with left-hander, and veteran, Mark Buehrle (3-0, 0.86). Saturday’s game is slated for a 1:05 p.m. start from Progressive Field.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images