The second half opened with a lot of uncertainty in the Cleveland rotation. Carlos Carrasco ended his first half with two very poor starts. Fausto Carmona has spent the last two weeks on the Disabled List, and was pitching poorly even before the header in Cincinnati. Mitch Talbot was demoted from the rotation to the Disabled List. And while Josh Tomlin has given the Indians way more than expected of him, he's already thrown 115.2 major-league innings; his career-high innings in a professional season was 180.1 in 2010, and with most of those AAA innings.
Meanwhile, Justin Masterson finished the first half on a roll, allowing no more than two earned runs in each of his last six starts. He's not only the Tribe's best starter as of this moment, but the best starter over the course of the season. Even with serious injuries to Alex White (finger) and Scott Barnes (knee), the Indians have enough starting depth to cobble together a rotation, but if Masterson wasn't having the season he's having, it would have been a rotation looking towards 2012, not towards a 2011 pennant race.
Masterson started his second half with a performance below his usual standards, but he had some room to work with. The Indians grabbed an early 3-0 lead thanks to two first inning home runs off LGFT Jeremy Guthrie; Asdrubal Cabrera smacked a solo shot, followed two batters later with a Carlos Santana two-run homer. A couple innings later, the Indians threatened to blow the game open; Santana doubled home a run, leaving runners at second and third with one out. The Orioles elected to walk Grady Sizemore to load the bases, and the move paid off, as Orlando Cabrera hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the third, Baltimore got back into the game with a Nick Markakis two-run bloop single. The score remained 4-2 until the sixth inning, when the Indians finally put the game out of reach. Guthrie was pulled after the first two batters of the inning reached, and then the Indians went to work on reliever Mark Hendrickson. Travis Buck drove home the fifth run of the game on a sacrifice fly, Matt LaPorta singled, and after Lonnie Chisenhall struck out, the next three Indians singled. The inning ended with the Indians up 8-2.
Masterson allowed two runs in the bottom of the sixth, and the bullpen threw three hitless innings to finish the game.
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