Justin Masterson was brilliant for more than seven innings and the Tribe actually scored some runs Monday night as the Indians beat the Orioles, 3-1, to snap a four-game losing streak and avoid a sweep at the hands of the Orioles. The win puts Cleveland back at .500 (48-48) and brings the Tribe within four games of the division-leading Tigers right before Detroit comes to town.
Both Masterson and Baltimore starter Tommy Hunter looked great from the outset and neither team scored until the third. With Casey Kotchman on second and two outs, Shin-Soo Choo took Hunter’s 1-0 pitch into the right field stands to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, Masterson shut out the Orioles until the fifth, when he hit Ryan Flaherty to set up Omar Quintanilla‘s two-out RBI double.
The Indians got that run back in the eighth. Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera led off with back-to-back singles to send Hunter to the showers, and Jason Kipnis followed with a sacrifice bunt that turned into an infield hit. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Michael Brantley delivered with an RBI single. Somehow that was all they got—Carlos Santana hit into a fielder’s choice, Travis Hafner struck out, and Aaron Cunningham flied out to end the threat—but nonetheless Cleveland emerged with a 3-1 lead.
The Good: Justin Masterson was simply brilliant, holding the O’s to just one run on seven hits in 7.1 strong innings, striking out six while walking only one. The way he’s looked lately, there aren’t many starting pitchers who can go toe-to-toe with him on his best day.
It was also a pretty good day for the top of the order as Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jason Kipnis combined to go 6-for-12 (each went 2-for-4) with a home run, a double, and three RBI.
The Bad: I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but this team needs to start scoring some runs. Three runs was enough Monday because Masterson was on his game, but most nights that just won’t cut it—especially against a starting pitcher who entered the game with a 5.71 ERA.
The “Huh?”: Orioles manager Buck Showalter slotted Endy Chavez into the No. 2 hole Monday night. Chavez is struggling through a miserable season, as he entered Monday’s action with a .176/.212/.259 line in 116 plate appearances. I’m not complaining here—it was Napoleon who famously said to “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”—but why on earth would a manager want to give Chavez the second-most plate appearances in the lineup?
Interesting Tidbit: Since July 7—over two weeks ago—the Indians have won only one game not started by Justin Masterson.