Covering the Bases: Game 68
Final: Red Sox 10, Indians 3
FIRST: If the Indians want to get where they want to get, they’ve got to get Justin Masterson going again. That is the reality of Cleveland’s situation. In a rout at the hands of the Red Sox on Friday night, Masterson’s enigmatic season hit an unfortunate snag once again for the Tribe.
If you remove any outings shortened by poor weather or injuries, Masterson’s performance in Boston marked the shortest of his career both in terms of innings (two) and pitches (59). He ended with zero strikeouts in a normal start for the first time since May 29, 2011, against Tampa Bay.
“I threw too many balls. That’s more or less what happened,” Masterson said. “I put the bullpen in a bad spot. They had to come in way too early before they’re supposed to come in.”
From the get-go this season, Masterson displayed diminished velocity — one of the largest one-year decreases in baseball this year for a starting pitcher. Still, no red flags were raised during his stellar spring, and he began the season with a gem on Opening Day. From there, it has been an up-and-down, inconsistent, perplexing game of survival for the sinkerballer.
Let’s take a look at the three-month roller coaster to date:
First start: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 K, 1 BB
Next two: 10.80 ERA, .368 AVG, 8.1 IP, 14 H, 11 K, 8 BB
Next five: 2.94 ERA, .230 AVG, 33.2 IP, 29 H, 33 K, 11 BB
Next three: 9.98 ERA, .344 AVG, 15.1 IP, 21 H, 7 K, 11 BB
Next three: 1.72 ERA, .214 AVG, 15.2 IP*, 12 H, 19 K, 8 BB
Friday at BOS: 2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 0 K
*includes one rain-shortened start
Indians manager Terry Francona was asked if the peak-and-valley nature of Masterson season was getting frustrating for the ballclub.
“We want to win every game,” Francona replied, “and I’d love to see everybody go nine. That’s not the way the game is. So, rather than getting frustrated, I think we want to just help where we can. [Pitching coach Mickey Callaway] kills himself trying to help these guys, so I don’t think we’ll let it get frustrating. We just want to help.”
As for Masterson, he focused less on his personal problems on the mound — issues he’ll continue to tackle behind the scenes with Callaway this week — and instead expressed regret over putting too much pressure on the bullpen. Francona turned to the relief corps in the third, when Masterson issued back-to-back walks to open the frame, while the game was still in a 3-3 deadlock.
“It’s been an interesting season for me,” Masterson said. “Then again, what’s disappointing even more so tonight — walking, or whatever — is just making the bullpen have to do more than they need to. That sets them up for some tough games coming up, because guys are going to have to work harder than they need to. That’s all because of me.”
Both Francona and Masterson were asked if the pitcher was physically OK.
Said the manager: “No, he’s fine.”
Said the starter: “I mean, physically, in the fact that the body is healthy. But, as far as feeling comfortable and being able to make pitches, no, it just didn’t take place.”
SECOND: For four innings, Cleveland’s bullpen performed admirably in the wake of Masterson’s mess.
With two runners aboard and no outs in the third, Francona turned the ball over to rookie lefty Kyle Crockett, who was summoned from Triple-A before the game. Not only was Crockett just promoted, he arrived to Fenway Park with less than two hours to go until first pitch. Crockett gave up a one-out, two-run double to Mike Napoli in the third, but logged 1.2 innings before bowing out.
All things considered, Crockett gave the Tribe a solid effort.
“I thought he showed very good poise in a tough situation,” Francona said. “I thought he made one bad pitch to Napoli. Other than that, I thought he was tremendous. The presence of Napoli back in their lineup makes their lineup look different.”
Scott Atchison got the Indians through five innings, keeping Boston’s lead at two runs. Marc Rzepczynski followed suit with a clean sixth inning, but then yielded consecutive singles to open the seventh. That initiated a win-clinching push for the Red Sox. Combined, Rzepczynski, Bryan Shaw, Josh Outman and Cody Allen allowed five runs on six hits across the seventh and eighth innings.
“You know when you go to the bullpen that early,” Francona said, “if somebody has a hiccup, you’re going to pay for it. But, for a while there, Crockett did a good job and we kept it at 5-3. And then it got out of hand.”
THIRD: On the positive side, Carlos Santana belted a two-run home run for Cleveland in the second inning, giving the Tribe a quick, albeit, short-lived lead. Santana finished 1-for-4, but the long ball continued his recent upward trend. Over his past 12 games, Santana has hit .300 (12-for-40) with three homers, two doubles and 11 RBIs for the Indians.
Cleveland wants Santana to focus on the recent success, rather than being overwhelmed by the .176 season average that is in bright lights on the scoreboard.
“His batting average is going to be low for a while, because he had a bad start,” Francona said. “But he’s starting to take some more aggressive swings and staying in the middle of the field. He just missed another one [in the sixth inning] — he just got a little bit on the end. If he gets hot, that’d be great for us.”
HOME: Earlier this season, we had the good fortune of witnessing Yan Gomes take on Brandon Gomes. As you might recall, Yan is the only Gomes in Major League history to have a hit off another Gomes. Your move, Jonny 0-for-Gomes. I bring this up because, on Friday night, we got to see a Rzepczynski vs. Pierzynski clash in the sixth inning. A.J. Pierzynski is now 0-for-Rzepczynski in three career at-batzynskis after flying out to center.
You heard it here first.
Indians (33-35) at Red Sox (31-36)
at 4:05 p.m. ET Saturday at Fenway Park