Covering the Bases: Game 14

Final:

A’s 5, Indians 1

FIRST: Sinkerballer Justin Masterson is in a bit of a funk right now. In Sunday’s finale in Oakland, the right-hander walked six in five innings and took the loss after giving up four runs on six hits in a 111-pitch performance. Over his last two starts, Masterson has given up 12 runs on 13 hits with 10 walks against three strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings.

Against the A’s, all six of Masterson’s walks came against left-handed hitters. He did hold the seven lefties in Oakland’s lineup to a 4-for-15 showing, but two of those hits went for extra bases and lefties are now hitting .346 (18-for-52) off Masterson on the season. A year ago, lefties hit .291 compared to .210 for righties against the sinkerballer.

Asked what he was working on to try to improve against left-handed hitters, here is what Masterson had to say: “It’s what am I trying to do to improve against all hitters. I mean, it’s the same thing for all of them. Really,I’ve gotten ahead in counts. It’s just finishing guys. So it’s making good pitches and trying to be consistent. I’m just not real consistent.”

SECOND: There were a couple tough plays in the field that did not go down as errors for the Indians, but led to A’s runs nonetheless.

In the fifth inning, with an extreme pull shift on against lefty Kila Ka’aihue, Jason Kipnis fielded a grounder awkwardly in shallow right field and pulled the throw to first base. Ka’aihue was safe and later went on to score. It’s a play Kipnis could’ve made and probably would make, if given another opportunity. Manager Manny Acta said Kipnis might have been in a better throwing position had he tried to backhand the ball.

In the eighth inning, with Eric Sogard on second base, Cliff Pennington sent a pitch into the hole between shortstop and third base. Shortstop Jason Donald made a nice play to track down the ball and made a long throw to try to get Pennington at first base. First baseman Jose Lopez bobbled the ball and Sogard — on a dead sprint the entire way — scored from second on the play.

There were no errors on either play, but both certainly could’ve been cleaner.

THIRD: Cleveland’s lineup for the Sunday day game hardly struck fear into the hearts of men. Cleanup-hitting catcher Carlos Santana was given the day off (day game after night game) and slumping first baseman Casey Kotchman (0-for-16 spell) was out as well. Left fielder Shelley Duncan was also on the bench, and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera remained out of town and on the bereavement list. That resulted in four bench players in the starting lineup. There have been three games this season where the Indians have had at least three of their regular players out of the starting lineup at the same time. Not surprisingly, the offensive production in those games has been: one run on four hits (Sunday at A’s), one run on four hits (Wednesday at Seattle) and two runs on five hits (April 9 vs. White S0x). All three were losses.

HOME: OK, enough with all the negative. Let’s take a moment to applaud the Indians for a strong showing on their first road trip of the season. A sweep of the Royals and a pair of two-out-of-three showings against the Mariners and A’s. These are teams Cleveland should beat — at home or on the road — and the club pulled out a series win in each. That’s good to see. After going 1-4 with 20 runs and a .176 average at home to open the year, the Indians went 7-2 with 54 runs (28 with two outs) and a .281 average on the road. It’s the first time since 1988 that Cleveland won each of its first three road sets of a season. Tip o’ the cap, Tribe.

On deck:

Royals (3-12) at Indians (8-6)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Progressive Field

–JB

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