The Indians kept rolling in this game, winning 3-2 through another fantastic performance from a starting pitcher and more timely hitting.
There was plenty to like in this contest. For the second day in a row, the Tribe jumped on an opposing starter struggling to find his command early on. Michael Bourn was again the catalyst in this one, as he and Michael Brantley each drew a walk sandwiched around an Asdrubal Cabrera strikeout in the first. A fine stop by makeshift first baseman Brock Holt robbed Jason Kipnis of extra bases, but Lonnie Chisenhall made sure John Lackey didn’t get through the frame unscathed when he blooped a single into left field to put the tribe up 2-0.
Bourn stayed hot in the third, when he laced a triple just over the outstretched glove of Jackie Bradley Jr. in center. Cabrera followed with a clean single to right to boost the Tribe’s lead to 3-0. Lackey held the Tribe bats quiet the rest of the night, save for a three-for-three effort from David Murphy, but that turned out to be okay because…
…Justin Masterson was fantastic, despite having to work through his own bout of wildness before settling in to this game. Masterson walked four batters through the first three innings, but managed to escape each innings without allowing a run by striking out four and inducing a double play groundout to end the third.
After that, however, Masterson started cruising. He struck out the side in the fourth, and he threw 25 strikes in a row in the fourth, fifth, and part of the sixth inning. One of the big surprises that made Masterson so good last season was his strikeout rate jumped from an average of 17.5% the three years prior to 24.3% in 2013. After strikeout totals of one, two, and three in his previous three outings, the jump to ten over seven innings was a refreshing change of pace. All told, Masterson didn’t yield a single run, allowing three hits and four walks to go along with the ten strikeouts. The Tribe starting pitching has been excellent lately, and they’ll need more efforts like this from Masterson if they’re going to make a playoff push.
Bryan Shaw struggled in this game, allowing a two-run homer to Xander Bogaerts to make it 3-2 in the eighth. Shaw has now allowed runs in three of his last four outings, and has put his status as my favorite reliever in the Tribe ‘pen in serious jeopardy. In all seriousness, there’s no reason to panic about Shaw. Even the best relievers are prone to rough stretches from time to time. Cody Allen further solidified his role as the closer by pitching a clean ninth with one punch-out.
Another negative from this game was that I spent nine innings trying to come up with a good joke about David Ortiz and his lack of protection, but could not think of one. Alas.
The Bottom Line
It was fantastic to see the Indians get an ace-like performance from the guy who was purported as such. The Indians have now won four in a row, improved to 19-11 at home, and are two games away from .500. They’ll look to keep things rolling tomorrow when T.J. House takes on the struggling Jake Peavy.