Covering the Bases: Game 49
Royals 8, Indians 5
FIRST: Asked how he would evaluate his season up to this point, here is what Indians sinkerballer Justin Masterson had to say following his latest inconsistent outing.
“Decent,” Masterson said. “That’s how I’d evaluate it. Couple bad ones, and quite a few good ones.”
Now, it’d be easy to scoff a bit at Masterson’s personal evaluation, considering he walked away from Tuesday’s game 2-4 with a 5.14 ERA for Cleveland. But, you know, when you crunch the numbers, it’s easy to see where Masterson is coming from in terms of that response.
Masterson has had three poor outings:
April 17 at Seattle: 8 R/8 ER in 3.2 IP
May 13 at Boston: 6 R/6 ER in 6 IP
Tuesday vs. Kansas City: 8 R/7 ER in 6 IP
Within each of those starts, Masterson has suffered an inning with at least four runs allowed. He gave up six runs in the fourth inning on April 17, four runs in the first inning on May 13 and five runs (four earned) in the second inning on Tuesday. That’s 14 earned runs in just three innings.
Let me put it another way: Masterson has given up 36 percent of his earned runs (14 ER) in only 4 percent of his innings (3 IP) this season. That’s a 3.44 ERA on the year if you remove those big innings. If you toss out those three worst starts, Masterson has a 3.08 ERA on the season.
I know, you can’t just toss out innings or starts. They happened. They’re in the books. My only point is that there is a very small sample of extremely ugly innings that skew Masterson’s overall statistical line. He hasn’t been inconsistent so much as he has been brutally bad very briefly here and there.
So what’s the issue? Masterson said he has been struggling with getting underneath the ball on both his sinker and slider this season. As evidenced on Tuesday, when he gave up seven runs in the first two innings and only one in the next four, it has sometimes taken Masterson a couple innings to get a good feel for his signature two-seamer.
Without that pitch (and PitchFX data also shows he’s down about 2 mph on his fastball), Masterson is limited in the weapons he can turn to on the mound. When the sinker is flat, lefties lick their chops. That’s what was witnessed on Tuesday night.
On the plus side, Masterson gave the Indians and their six-man bullpen six innings and he ended with eight strikeouts against no walks. In fact, Masterson became the first Indians pitcher since Aug. 31, 1990 (Greg Swindell) to strike out at least eight while giving up at least eight runs.
As for that bullpen, it looks like an additional arm is on the way up from the Minors for Wednesday. Following Tuesday’s game, it appeared shortstop Juan Diaz was saying his farewells to his Indians teammates. Once Asdrubal Cabrera was cleared to resume manning the field following his left hamstring issue, it was a foregone conclusion that Diaz would be sent back down.
SECOND: When the Indians struck for two runs in the bottom of the first inning to pull the game into a 2-2 tie, it seemed like we were in store for a tightly-contested battle. Instead, the Royals pounded out five runs in the second and killed the energy on Cleveland’s side in the process.
“That had to be the most boring game I’ve ever been a part of,” Acta said. “Everything happened in the first two innings. It was just pathetic. The second inning just pretty much sucked the energy out of everybody. It was a deep hole and we couldn’t get out of it.”
THIRD: The Indians managed just one hit in their final 21 trips to the plate and dropped to 4-10 against left-handed starters this season. Lefty Will Smith gave up two runs in the first inning and was shaky to the point that Kansas City had a reliever warming up in the bullpen.
But then the Tribe’s offense went flat and Smith collected his first Major League win.
“Offensively, we also had our chance in the first inning,” Acta said. “They already had a guy warming up, getting ready to come into the game. We let the kid Smith off the hook. After that, he was pretty good.”
HOME: In the second inning, Humberto Quintero chopped a pitch to Indians first baseman Jose Lopez with runners on second and third base with one out. Lopez gloved the ball and threw to home plate in an effort to nab Eric Hosmer. Catcher Luke Carlin caught the relay in front of the plate, but it was ruled that Hosmer slid in safely before being tagged.
Carlin was asked if he felt in hindsight that he could’ve blocked the plate better.
“I’ll have to look at the video,” Carlin said. “I thought that I was standing just in front of it. I took it away att he last second. I tagged him on the head. [The home-plate ump] said he got in there behind me, but I couldn’t see it because my head was turned the other way. It was a close play either way. He had the best view, so I can’t argue with that.”
Carlin did achieve a unique feat in the loss.
The catcher went 0-for-4, but he reached base via an error three times. Carlin became only the second Indians player since 1960 to have at least three ROE’s in a single game. The last player to do so was Walt Williams on Sept. 11, 1973 (also three times in an 0-for-4 showing). The last big leaguer to reach three times via ROEs in one game was Braves catcher Brian McCann on Sept. 2, 2009.
Royals (20-28) at Indians (27-22)
at 12:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Progressive Field