Justin Masterson tossed another absolute gem and Cleveland hitters came up with a number of big hits as the Indians beat the Reds, 8-1, to complete a three-game sweep in the second round of the 2012 Ohio Cup. The win boosts the Tribe’s record to 36-32 as the Indians maintained their half-game lead in the AL Central.
The first few innings seemed to just breeze by—especially the Reds’ halves. Masterson took a no-hitter into the fourth inning and was on pace to face the minimum 27 batters until the seventh. It took him just 25 pitches to get through the first three frames; Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo had a little more trouble dispatching the Indians’ hitters, but they took failed to score in the early innings.
That changed in the bottom of the fourth. Casey Kotchman reached on a one-out single before Johnny Damon cleared the right field wall for a two-run homer. Lonnie Chisenhall and Shin-Soo Choo drew walks to put two on for Tuesday’s hero Asdrubal Cabrera, who ripped Arroyo’s 0-2 pitch to right-center for a three-run bomb. Arroyo was removed from the game at the end of the inning as the Tribe jumped out to a commanding 5-0 lead.
After a two-inning hiatus, Cleveland’s bats picked up where they left off in the bottom of the seventh. Carlos Santana reached with a single and advanced to second as Kotchman reached on a Joey Votto error before Damon’s walk loaded the bases with two outs for Chisenhall. After falling behind in the count, Chisenhall roped Alfredo Simon‘s 1-2 pitch down the right field line for a bases-clearing three-run double.
That was it for the Tribe as J.J. Hoover worked out of the seventh inning jam and Logan Ondrusek pitched a scoreless eighth. Meanwhile Masterson ceded only one unearned run; Jay Bruce reached on an Asdrubal Cabrera error in the eighth and scored on Willie Harris‘ groundout to second. He went the distance and struck out the side in the top of the ninth—the last out was a called strike three to Joey Votto—as the Indians cruised to an 8-1 win to complete the sweep of Cincinnati.
The Good: It feels like I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but this might have been the best Justin Masterson has pitched all season. He threw a complete game three-hitter without allowing any earned runs. Though he hit a batter, he didn’t give up any walks while fanning nine Reds—including the last four batters he faced. If his last few outings are any indication, I’d say we have our ace back.
On the other side of the ball, you’ve got to give it up for the timely hitting. Every team gets called out for this when they lose, but the Tribe’s alleged inability to cash in on run-scoring opportunities seems to have been a real theme of the 2012 season so far. But there were no concerns about that Wednesday night. All it took were three big hits—Johnny Damon and Asdrubal Cabrera’s home runs and Lonnie Chisenhall‘s three-run double—to put Cleveland on the board eight times.
The Bad: Lonnie Chisenhall’s walk in the fourth inning might not have seemed particularly noteworthy, but it marked a big milestone: It was the first time he’d earned a free pass since being promoted to the majors three weeks ago, a span of 58 plate appearances. Obviously the walk was a good thing, but it’s of some concern that it took so long. (It was a great game, there isn’t too much else to be said here.)
The “Huh?”: After more than a week of mashing Indians pitching, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips combined to go 1-for-7 with a strikeout. I’m not questioning this and I’m certainly not disappointed, but it was confusing not to see them hitting like someone had entered a cheat code.
Interesting Tidbit: Wednesday night marked the first time Justin Masterson had ever gone a full nine innings without allowing a walk. It was also the first time he got nine strikeouts without issuing a free pass since April 14, 2010.