By Mike Brandyberry
The glass half-full side will celebrate the end of a very successful west coast trip. The glass half-empty side will begin to wonder and speculate about three straight subpar Justin Masterson outings. His third resulted in a 5-1 defeat to the hands of the Oakland Athletics.
The Athletics avoided the sweep on Sunday by beating Masterson around early. The defeat alone may seem like a little concern, but the loss of consistency in your ace is a big concern.
The Tribe started off the game with a two-out double by Shin-Soo Choo to the left field wall and a Travis Hafner double to score Choo. It appeared the Indians were picking up right where they had left off last night, picking up key two out base hits and getting ahead in the game early. It was the only offense the team would muster off right-hander Tyler Ross.
Meanwhile, the Athletics attacked Masterson early when Jemile Weeks walked with two outs in the third inning and Cliff Pennington doubled to deep right center field. Oakland followed suit in the fourth with a leadoff walk from Kila Ka’aihue and a home run by Seth Smith to give the Athletics a 3-1 lead. In the fifth, Ka’aihue reached on an infield hit, Smith walked and Kurt Suzuki singled home Oakland’s fourth run in three innings from Masterson.
Masterson’s day was done after five innings, allowing four runs—all earned—off six hits, only striking out two and walking six in 111 pitches. All of the Athletics runs were scored with two outs. What may be more troubling for Masterson is that the early exit is the third straight poor effort from the staff ace. Reportedly, Masterson’s velocity is down from last season. That lessened velocity could be a product of a steep incline in innings pitched over the last few seasons.
Rafael Perez worked two scoreless innings in relief before giving way to Nick Hagadone for the eighth. Hagadone allowed a run on two hits, but part of his run was a product of a poor throw by Jason Donald that could not be handled by first baseman, Jose Lopez. The play is one that regular first baseman, Casey Kotchman would have made.
The loss sends the Tribe home from a nine game road trip with a 7-2 record, one few could complain about and only a one game deficit in the American League Central Division. Considering the shaky start, to return home only a game behind Detroit has to be deemed a half full moment.
The Tribe travels home this evening and has an off day on Monday before taking on the Kansas City Royals for a three game set beginning on Tuesday. Derek Lowe will take to the mound for the Indians on Tuesday to match up with the Royals’ Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez was responsible for instigating the melee in Kansas City last weekend when he hit Choo.
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images