This certainly wasn’t the way the Indians wanted to begin their three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. The lack of offense in their 7-2 defeat on Sunday afternoon was overshadowed by the loss of starter Justin Masterson.
Masterson threw just two pitches in the second inning before being looked at by Terry Francona and one of the team’s trainers. He stayed in the game briefly, allowing a base hit to Matt Wieters and throwing a pitch to Nick Markakis before Francona was summoned to the mound again by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Masterson exited the game with an apparent injury that was later defined as “soreness around his left ribcage”, although the cause has yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, the Orioles proceeded to take advantage of the Tribe’s misfortune. After coming on in relief for Masterson, Preston Guilmet allowed a single to Markakis, then gave up what should have been an RBI double to Nate McLouth. However, on his way from first to third, Markakis missed the second-base bag and was called out after the Indians appealed. The double became a long fielder’s choice instead, but Baltimore tacked on two more runs when Brian Roberts hit a two-run double off Guilmet later that inning.
Cleveland’s bullpen struggled with the task of filling Masterson’s shoes. Nick Hagadone pitched a scoreless third inning, but quickly gave up a two-run right-field home run to McLouth the following inning. Both Blake Wood and Clay Rapada were shaky in their debuts as Indians, walking two batters each. Rapada exited with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, but Matt Albers was able to force J.J. Hardy to ground into a double play to prevent any runs from scoring.
The Indians’ offense offered little help for their pitching staff. Bud Norris shut down the Tribe’s lineup, allowing no runs through his first six innings. Jason Kipnis led off the seventh with a home run to right-center field, and Lonnie Chisenhall started the eighth with a solo shot of his own, but it was not enough to overcome the damage the Orioles had done. In the ninth inning, Wieters added a final insult by blasting Baltimore’s second two-run home run of the day.
The Good: Despite the fact that Hagadone gave up a two-run bomb, he threw the majority of his pitches for strikes and did have a clean first inning. Control was a big issue for him, so hopefully this is a step in the right direction. There aren’t a lot of good things to say about the offense, but Brantley did have a three-hit game (although he also got picked off at second base), and Chisenhall’s home run was his second in the past week.
The Bad: The Indians need Justin Masterson. In March, no one would have said that the Tribe’s rotation would be the most solid aspect of their team and the primary reason that they are still in playoff conversations. However, that’s exactly what has happened. Masterson is the best – and most reliable – starter that the team has, and losing him for an extended amount of time is a huge problem. He downplayed his injury after the game, but until tests are run and a diagnosis is announced, Tribe fans can only hope that it’s nothing serious.