Justin Masterson enjoyed one of his best outings of the season Saturday night in St. Louis, but it was in vain as Kyle Lohse and the Cardinals’ bullpen corps shut the Indians out as the Tribe fell 2-0 at Busch Stadium. The loss dropped Cleveland’s record to 31-27, and when combined with the White Sox’ 10-1 shellacking of the Astros it increased Chicago’s AL Central lead to 1.5 games.
After a couple innings of scorelessness, Cardinals broke the shutout stalemate in the bottom of the third. With two outs and nobody on, Masterson hung a 1-0 slider to Carlos Beltran, who promptly deposited it over the center field fence. It was probably the only real mistake pitch he made all night.
The score stood still until the bottom of the eighth, when the Cardinals put together a mini-rally against Jeremy Accardo. Shane Robinson lined Accardo’s second pitch into right field for a double; he moved to third on Adron Chambers‘ sacrifice bunt before scoring on Rafael Furcal‘s sacrifice fly to give St. Louis an insurance run.
Meanwhile, the Indians couldn’t touch Lohse or Jason Motte (or Marc Rzepzcynski, though he made only one pitch before Asdrubal Cabrera was caught stealing to end the top of the eighth). They put to men on base in both the second and the fourth, but that was it for the Tribe as the Cardinals won the pitcher’s duel, 2-0.
The Good: Justin Masterson was just about as good as we’ve seen him so far this year—more specifically, it was his best outing since Opening Day. He held arguably the best offense in the game to just one run on five hits across seven strong innings, striking out six without walking anyone. The Indians need him to be their ace again if they want to stay in the race all year, and that’s exactly the kind of thing we need to see from him.
Offensively, Michael Brantley kept his hot streak alive, going 2-for-4—which is especially impressive considering that Cleveland got only three hits all night.
The Bad: Yes, Kyle Lohse is a great pitcher, but it’s never good to see a lineup struggle like the Indians did today. As if getting shut out wasn’t bad enough, they didn’t even make any real opportunities for themselves to score—as evidenced by the fact that they got only two hits.
The “Huh?”: Manny Acta seems to have too little faith in Lonnie Chinsenhall, who was banished to the No. 8 spot in the batting order, ahead of only Justin Masterson. We know that his plate discipline is a work in progress—he hasn’t drawn a single walk in 33 big-league plate appearances so far this year—but given his power and pure hitting ability you could make a case for him hitting ahead of the struggling Johnny Damon, and he’s certainly a better hitter right now then No. 7 guy Casey Kotchman.
Interesting Tidbit: Justin Masterson struck out at least six batters in a start without allowing a walk for the first time since…less than two weeks ago, when the Royals shelled him for eight runs. The last time he accomplished the feat in a quality start was July 19, 2011 in Minnesota.