Justin Masterson had one of his worst outings of the season for the Tribe and Kansas City starter Will Smith kept Cleveland’s bats at bay as the Royals (20-28) bested the Indians (27-22), 8-2. The loss knocked the Tribe out of first place in the AL Central; the Indians now sit a half-game behind the division-leading Chicago White Sox.
It didn’t take long for the Royals to get to Masterson. Alex Gordon hit a leadoff single on the second pitch of the game. Johnny Giavotella took Gordon’s place on a fielder’s choice and moved to second on a wild pitch before scoring on Mike Moustakas‘ two-out, two-run home run that gave Kansas City a 2-0 lead before Cleveland even got a chance to bat.
The Indians got their revenge in the bottom of the first. Shin-Soo Choo worked a walk off Smith to lead off the inning and stole second on the next pitch. A Jason Kipnis base on balls and an Asdrubal Cabrera single loaded the bases with nobody out. Jose Lopez came through with an RBI single to score Choo and Kipnis came home on Michael Brantley‘s fielder’s choice. Aaron Cunningham‘s flyout and Lonnie Chisenhall‘s strikeout ended the inning, but not before the Tribe knotted the score up at 2-2.
It didn’t last long as the Royals’ bats exploded in the second. Nine men came to the plate for Kansas City as the Royals lit Masterson up for five runs on four hits and a hit by pitch. Humberto Quintero, Gordon, and Giavotella all came up with big hits before Moustakas capped the rally with a two-run single. By the time Masterson struck out Jeff Francoeur to end the inning Kansas City had jumped out to a commanding 7-2 lead.
The score was fairly stable from then on, with the only additional run coming in the sixth as Jarrod Dyson singled, swiped second, and came home on Quintero’s RBI single. Jeremy Accardo and Nick Hagadone combined to throw three innings of scoreless relief while Smith, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins, and Aaron Crow all shut down the Tribe’s bats for the last eight innings as the Indians fell, 8-2.
The Good: Believe it or not, there were some great signs from Justin Masterson’s outing today. That he pitched four solid innings after his struggles in the first and second speaks to his resilience. He racked up eight strikeouts in just six innings of work without walking a batter (though he did allow a wild pitch and an HBP), and of the 18 balls in play against him 10 were on the ground. From a DIPS standpoint it was probably his best outing since Opening Day, and according to xFIP it was the fourth-best start of his Indians career.
The Bad: Pretty much everything else about Masterson’s day. He gave up eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits and a home run. Positive signs aside, that’s just not the kind of performance you want to see from your ace.
Meanwhile, the Indians’ offense couldn’t manage much of anything—two runs on five hits with two walks against seven strikeouts. It’s hard to blame them for not producing with more than half the usual lineup absent (Travis Hafner, Carlos Santana, Jack Hannahan, Casey Kotchman, Johnny Damon) but still.
The “Huh?”: Jose Lopez was hitting fourth for the Tribe Tuesday night. Given his recent hot streak and Manny Acta’s history putting him higher in the order than he should, this wasn’t terribly surprising. The really jarring thing was that, looking at the players Acta had to work with in setting the batting order, Lopez probably really was the best choice to hit cleanup.
Interesting Tidbit: Even including a handful of shortened starts or relief appearances, Tuesday was the first time Masterson took the mound in a game without walking a batter since July 19, 2011 against the Twins.