By Mike Brandyberry
After two crushing ninth inning defeats, the Indians were able to take the series finale from the Boston Red Sox by a score of 7-3 at Fenway Park. The victory pulls the Tribe to three games back of the division leading Detroit Tigers.
Carlos Santana led the Indian offense with three hits, a home run and three runs batted in. Santana’s two run home run in the top of the sixth inning to break a 3-3 tie put the Tribe on top to stay. Travis Hafner and Kosuke Fukudome also had three hits each in the contest. The Indians rapped out fourteen base hits as their offense looks to be reviving itself.
Justin Masterson gave another ace-like effort, pitching six strong innings, allowing five hits and striking out nine. Masterson struck out four hitters in the bottom of the second inning when Santana was not able to handle a wild pitch. His effort was quite gritty as he battled the patient Red Sox hitters. It took Masterson 118 pitches to complete his work. His nine punchouts tied his season high.
Jason Kipnis did have a base hit in five at bats, but was unable to extend his home run streak to five games. Kipnis faced left handed pitchers all evening and seemed to see many more offspeed pitches than in previous nights.
Vinnie Pestano worked an inning and a third behind Masterson, then gave way to Tony Sipp. Pestano has rebounded nicely in recent outings after some shaky appearances after the All-Star Break. Sipp retired lefties David Ortiz and Carl Crawford to end the eighth. Chris Perez worked a three-up, three-down ninth inning to complete the victory for the Tribe.
The series split keeps the Indians above the .500 mark at 55-54 on the season, but more importantly, the quality of play has improved since the last homestand. The Tribe was only two Jacoby Ellsbury ninth inning hits away from a potential sweep. Hopefully the victory will give the Tribe some momentum heading to Texas for a weekend set that is should have temperatures about 100 degrees for all three games. Masterson’s performance this evening will hopefully be the start to a potent 1-2 punch with Ubaldo Jimenez, making his first Indian start on Friday evening.