Covering the Bases: Game 58

140602MastyFinal: Indians 3, Red Sox 2

FIRST: There is a term for what Indians starter Justin Masterson did in the fourth on Monday night. Nasty Masty spun what is known as an immaculate inning.

Nine pitches. Three up, three down. Three strikeouts.

“I didn’t know it was nine pitches,” Masterson said. “I knew I punched out the side.”

It all happened so fast, but — believe it or not — it had never happened previously for an Indians pitcher. According to research done by Cleveland’s media relations staff, no Indians pitcher was known to have accomplished an immaculate inning prior to Masterson on Monday night.

It is believed that Masterson is just the 70th pitcher in baseball history to have achieved the feat.

“He was throwing all his pitches with a lot of conviction,” Indians manager Terry Francona said, “which is a good sign. I think when you’re throwing that many strikes and you’re throwing them with all pitches, you’re going to be confident.”

Let’s take you through the immaculate production…

Jonny Gomes:
90-mph four-seamer — called strike
83-mph slider — swinging strike
82-mph slider — swinging strike

Grady Sizemore:
89 two-seamer — called strike
91-mph four-seamer — swinging strike
83-mph slider — swinging strike

Stephen Drew:
92-mph four-seamer — called strike
83-mph slider — called strike
82-slider — swinging strike

That stretch came within a run of 25 consecutive strikes that ran from the last batter in the third (A.J. Pierzynski) to the second hitter in the sixth (David Ortiz). That marked the longest such streak by a Major Leaguer since Scott Diamond ran off 26 strikes in a row on June 24, 2012 against the Reds. On April 18, 2012, Bartolo Colon fired 38 straight strikes against the Angels.

Asked about that streak, Masterson cracked a grin.

“I’ve felt like I’ve thrown 25 balls in a row in one game,” he said with a laugh. “So, it’s nice to throw 25 strikes.”

What was amazing about Masterson’s strike-throwing showing was that it followed an incredibly rough opening to his night. The righty dodged damage in the first few innings, but he needed 61 pitches (32 strikes/29 balls) to record seven outs within the first 13 batters he faced. From there, he threw 44 pitches (35 strikes/9 balls) to the final 13 batters he faced, covering 14 outs.

Masterson ended with seven shutout innings and a season-high 10 strikeouts.

We talked a little bit earlier about how the first three innings, he kind of cruises and then he runs into a tough spot,” Francona said. “He kind of flipped it tonight. Boy, did he ever. He’s facing a bunch of left-handers. He stayed down. He started changing speeds. He just attacked the strike zone.

“You look up in the third inning and you think, ‘OK, we’ve got the lead, but we’re going to be into our bullpen early.’ He got us pretty deep.”

SECOND: The Indians didn’t get much going against Red Sox righty John Lackey (three runs on eight hits in eight innings), but they jumped on the two walks he issued in the first. Tribe leadoff man Michael Bourn set the table in the opening frame and came through again in the third.

Bourn drew a leadoff walk in the first and promptly stole second base. He and Michael Brantley (also walked) both scored on a two-run single from Lonnie Chisenhall. In the third, Bourn led off with a triple and scored on a single from Asdrubal Cabrera. Bourn also reached via single in the fifth, but was stranded.

“He makes us go,’ Francona said. “You could see he set the tone tonight. The first pitch, he takes off and steals a bag. He hits a triple that, maybe when it was cold and he wasn’t confident was a double. You can see how much he’s enjoying that aspect of it. You can see how proud he was of it. He should be. When he goes like that, we can be a different team.”

Since his second comeback from a hamstring issue, Bourn has hit .313 (31-for-99) with two home runs, four doubles, three triples, three stolen bases, nine walks, 10 RBIs and 13 runs in 23 games for Cleveland. Bourn said a key lately has been being more aggressive.

“A little bit — just taking an opportunity when it’s there,” Bourn said. “That’s the main thing, not try to miss out on too many opportunities. If an opportunity exists there you got to try to be aggressive.”

THIRD: The two runs scored by Boston came in the eighth inning, when Xander Bogaerts launched a two-run home run off setup man Bryan Shaw. The right-hander has been used a lot lately and Francona admitted that he probably should’ve gone in another direction in that inning.

“I think those should’ve been my earned runs tonight,” Francona said.

Boston had lefty-hitting Jackie Bradley Jr. due to lead off, so Francona figured the Red Sox would turn to a pinch hitter if he opened the inning with lefty Marc Rzepczynski. The next two batters, Brock Holt (.421 average and 1.031 OPS) and Bogaerts (.308/.885) entered with great numbers against lefties, too. So, Francona turned to Shaw and opted to save Rzepczynski if the inning went awry and Ortiz and A.J. Pierzynski were coming up.

I really wanted Zep to face those two if we got in trouble,” Francona said.

Shaw got the initial groundout, but then gave up a single and a home run. After getting Dustin Pedroia to ground out, Francona turned to Rzepczynski against Ortiz, who flew out. As it happens, Shaw and Zep are tied for the Major League lead in relief appearances at 30 apiece. Shaw was also pitching in his third straight game after logging 47 pitches in his previous two outings.

Shaw has now given up three runs on four hits with one walk and no strikeouts in his last two innings over the past two games, raising his season ERA to 2.22 from 1.37.

“I told Shaw,” Francona said, “if he goes to arbitration, ‘I’ll go with you and tell them I shouldn’t have pitched you that much tonight.'”

Fair enough.

HOME: Monday marked Sizemore’s return to Cleveland after a long road of recovery, following multiple knee injuries, surgeries and setbacks. He said before the game that Cleveland “still feels like home,” and it probably did again when he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning.

The Indians were up by one run, there were two outs, the count was full and the baseball gods saw fit to have Sizemore in the batter’s box. It was all set up perfectly for a feel-good moment for Sizemore, but Tribe setup man Cody Allen — drafted in 2011, which was the last time Sizemore played a game with the Indians — had other things in mind.

Allen induced a game-ending flyout to Cabrera at short to notch his fourth save.

“I was a kid when he was here at his peak. He was an animal here,” Allen said of Sizemore. “So, to be able to get him out for the 27th out was pretty cool, in this ballpark. This is his first time back, so that was a pretty cool feeling.”

Monday’s coverage:

On deck:

Red Sox (27-30) at Indians (28-30)
at 7:05 p.m. ET  Tuesday at Progressive Field

–JB

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