Covering the Bases: Game 86
FIRST: Let me start this one off with saying I enjoy covering Justin Masterson. He’s a refreshing player to chronicle given his sense of humor, constant smile and easygoing way of going about things.
In a game that’s extremely hard, and extremely scrutinized, Masterson does his best to keep things light. He did so again after Friday’s loss to Detroit, following a rough performance in which he allowed six runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, marking his shortest outing of the season.
This time, Masterson’s delivery was off both during and after the game.
Masterson was asked what the issue was against the Tigers, and the pitcher decided to quip that it had to do with his decision to go clean-shaven for the start.
“I was just flying open all day,” Masterson said. “In my last outing, I had a little bit of a beard going on. I shaved it before this one. I think my head was a little bit lighter, so I was just kind of pulling off to the side and I was pushing a lot of stuff out there. So I have to re-evaluate the next time that I shave.”
Masterson chuckled while reporters stood silent.
This is hardly a big deal, but it seems that there could be a better time to joke about a poor performance. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism after a rough start, or maybe it’s Masterson’s way of showing that he doesn’t take a bad day at the office more serious than it probably needs to be taken. After all, there are 30-plus starts in a season. This was just one of them.
Masterson has done this in the past. Most notable were two such postgame interviews last season.
On July 6 a year ago, he allowed eight runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Rays and gave up a home run to Luke Scott to snap the batter’s 0-for-41 slump. Masterson joked that it was just “people helping people.” On Aug. 3 last season, he gave up seven runs in four innings to the Tigers and thought that postgame session was a good time to talk about his wife’s cookie business.
Masterson has the right idea about keeping things light, but it doesn’t always go over well in the immediate aftermath of a tough loss.
Flying open was an issue, but it had nothing to do with Masterson’s beard. The result was a sinker that went flat at times and a breaking ball that wasn’t as sharp. A pair of hitters with poor career numbers against Masterson also came up big. Ramon Santiago (1-for-14 vs. the pitcher going into Friday) delivered a tw0-run single in the second. Jhonny Peralta (1-for-17) had a two-run double in the fifth.
“When the sinker is up, anybody can hit it,” Masterson said. “It doesn’t matter what the numbers are.”
It is worth noting that Masterson spun a brilliant complete-game shutout last time out against the White Sox. In the outings on either side of that start, though, he’s given up 12 runs in 11 innings combined against a pair of good lineups between the Orioles and Tigers.
Here’s a look at Masterson’s season split in two:
Last 9 starts:
3-5, 4.91 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 55 IP, 32 ER, 60 K, 23 BB, 9.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 8.4 H/9
First 10 starts:
7-2, 2.83 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 70 IP, 22 ER, 71 K, 26 BB, 9.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 6.8 H/9
SECOND: It certainly did not help matters that Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello turned in a gem against Cleveland’s offense, spinning seven shutout innings to guide Detroit to an easy win.
Said Tigers manager Jim Leyland: “I didn’t expect him to shut this lineup out, to be honest with you, but I’m thrilled to death that he did.”
Porcello ended the evening with six strikeouts and two walks, scattering five hits along the way. Indians center fielder Michael Bourn said the right-hander did a good job of attacking the lineup with fastballs later in the count rather than using the soft stuff.
“He had a good four-seamer that he was getting to us at the end of counts,” Bourn said. “After he slowed us down, he was speeding us up pretty much.”
THIRD: There was a glaring baserunning blunder by Drew Stubbs in the third inning that cost the Indians a possible rally when they were only trailing, 3-0.
Stubbs led off with a single and Bourn followed by sending a pitch from Porcello to center field. Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson made a diving catch, but Stubbs — who moved halfway between first and second base — stutter-stepped, considered retreating and then ran to second base. Jackson, who caught the low liner just above the ground, threw to first base and easily doubled up Stubbs for an unlikely twin killing.
So, what happened?
“The umpire was directly in his line of vision,” Indians manager Terry Francona explained. “And the way Jackson caught the ball … Stubby had no idea. He thought the ball fell. He’s maybe our most conscientious and best baserunner. He got shielded and didn’t know what to do.
“He didn’t know. He was stuck, and he knew it. It just was a fluke. Wasn’t the umpire’s fault. Just was a fluke.”
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis went 1-for-4, but finished with three strikeouts in a game for the first time since May 22. That sixth-inning single did, however, extend his career-best hitting streak to 16 games. During that streak, Kipnis has hit .446 (25-for-56) with 13 extra-base hits, 20 RBI and a .916 OPS. It’s the longest hit streak for a Tribe second baseman since Robbie Alomar went 18 games in 2000.
The single also extended Kipnis’ on-base streak — reaching via a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch — to 36 consecutive games, dating back to May 26. The last Cleveland player to enjoy an on-base streak at least that long was Victor Martinez, who lasted 45 games between 2005-06. Martinez went 3-for-3 for Detroit in Friday’s loss.
Tigers (47-38) at Indians (46-40)
at 4:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Progressive Field