Justin Masterson’s walk on the wild side was far too much for the Cleveland Indians to overcome on Friday night as they dropped their fourth straight game of their road trip, this one a 10-3 final in Boston to the Red Sox.
Masterson, the same pitcher who threw 25 straight strikes in a game recently, just simply could not find the strike zone. He threw first pitch balls to eleven of the 12 batters he faced and only three times was able to get ahead in the count either 0-1 or 1-2. He was charged with five runs, all earned, in just two innings. He allowed three hits, four walks, and did not strike out a batter. He threw 59 pitches, just 28 of which were for strikes, which established a new career low number of pitches in a game that he left without an injury.
On a rainy and foggy day in Boston, the Red Sox set a season-high with ten runs scored Friday.
The Indians jumped on top first after plating a pair off of Red Sox starter John Lackey in the second. David Murphy singled to center with one out and, after a Yan Gomes strikeout, Carlos Santana cleared the fences in right with his eighth home run of the season to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
“His batting average is going to be low for a while because he had a bad start but he’s starting to take some more aggressive swings and stay in the middle of the field,” said skipper Terry Francona. “He just missed another one, he just got a little bit on the end. If he gets hot, that’ll be great for us.”
The Red Sox struck back in the bottom half of the frame. A pair of leadoff walks to David Ortiz and Mike Napoli immediately put Masterson (4-5) in trouble. On the seventh pitch of his at bat, Daniel Nava singled to center but Michael Bourn gunned Ortiz down at the plate for the inning’s first out. A.J. Pierzynski, who would see the only first pitch strike of the night from Masterson, doubled to deep center to score a pair to tie the game at two. A groundout to short by Jonathan Herrera moved the runner to third with two outs and Jackie Bradley Jr. tripled to right center to give the Sox a 3-2 lead.
Cleveland evened things back up with back-to-back doubles to respond to the Boston scoring effort. Asdrubal Cabrera drove the third pitch he saw off of the Green Monster in left and earned the double with great hustle immediately out of the batter’s box. Michael Brantley followed with a double to the gap in left-center, easily scoring Cabrera to knot things back up at three.
Masterson looked lost on the mound and after extreme control issues continued to flare up in the third inning, his exit to stage left happened quickly. He threw nine pitches to the first two batters, Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, walking each. Tribe pitching coach Mickey Callaway and manager Francona, who had rookie reliever Kyle Crockett up and warming in the second inning, must have been concerned and pulled the Indians number one starter after just two-plus innings of work.
“Knowing Masty’s track record, the hope is that he can reel it back in and get in sync and reel off a couple of innings like he can,” said Francona. “It just looked like he didn’t look real crisp and he wasn’t commanding. They got the middle of the order coming up…I wanted to give us a chance to win. You know when you go to the bullpen that early, if someone has a hiccup, you’re going to pay for it.
“When he’s using that two-seamer and it has a lot of life, you see a lot of swing and miss with the down or the guys beating the ball into the ground,” said Francona. “He was having such a tough time commanding that he started to lose some life just trying to throw strikes.”
Crockett entered the game with two on, nobody out, and the always dangerous Ortiz at the plate, but was able to induce a soft fly to the foul line in medium left. But Napoli doubled to the right field corner to clear both runners and give the advantage back to the home town crowd, 5-3. Crockett worked his way out of the inning with a pair of grounders to short to end the threat.
“I thought he showed very good poise in a tough situation,” said Francona regarding Crockett. “I thought he made one bad pitch to Napoli. Other than that I thought he was tremendous. The presence of Napoli back in their lineup makes their lineup different.”
Lester (8-4) was finished after six and two-thirds innings on the mound. He allowed three earned runs on seven hits, walked one, and struck out five on 110 pitches.
The Sox would erase all doubt in the bottom of the seventh. Marc Rzepczynski, working in his second inning of relief, allowing back-to-back singles to Bradley and Brock Holt. Bryan Shaw came in from the bullpen and got a flyout to shallow left before Pedroia doubled high off of the left field wall to score both runners. After an intentional walk to Ortiz, Napoli singled to right field. On the play, the ball deflected away from right fielder Murphy, allowing Pedroia to score from second easily to extend the Boston lead to 8-3.
With a new reliever on the mound in Josh Outman, the scoring continued and the rout was on. Nava laced a double past the glove of Lonnie Chisenhall at third, scoring a lumbering Ortiz from second to push the score to 9-3.
Bogaerts hit his sixth home run of the year off of Cody Allen with two outs in the eighth to give the game its final 10-3 score.
Cleveland pitching, which has been amongst the league leaders in strikeouts all season long, did not get their first strikeout of the evening until the final out of the sixth.
“It’s not as fun as it could be. It’s been an interesting season for me,” said Masterson. “What’s disappointing even more so tonight is making the bullpen have to do more work then they need to. That sets them up for some tough games coming up because guys are going to have to work harder than they need to and it’s all because of me.”
Chisenhall’s nine-game hitting streak and Jason Kipnis’s ten-game hitting streak both ended with 0-for-4 efforts at the plate.
The Indians (33-35) fall to 12-24 on the road as they continue their consistent ways of losing on the road. The Red Sox (31-36) pull back to even at home with their win at 17-17. Combined with Minnesota’s 2-0 win in Detroit, Cleveland is now back in the cellar of the American League Central, but trails the Tigers by just three and a half games.
Boston will send Jake Peavy (1-4, 4.76) to the mound Saturday afternoon. He is winless since April 25th. Lefty T.J. House (0-1, 5.24) will counter for Cleveland. He was shelled in his last outing and was unable to complete the fourth inning despite a sizable lead.
First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 PM. Follow the action on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images