BOSTON, MA - MAY 13: Justin Masterson #63 of the Cleveland Indians reacts after giving up a solo home run to Will Middlebrooks of the Boston Red Sox on April 21, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The series started so well, and ended so ugly.
The Indians are very fortunate that they are getting good contributions from what was assumed to be the bottom of their rotation, for if they hadn't, they might be challenging the Twins for the baseball of the AL right now. Justin Masterson was awful again, and the Indians couldn't keep up despite having a couple early opportunities.
Masterson gave up four runs in the first inning, all after getting the first two outs quickly. His only walk of the game started the rally, and he would face six more batters before getting out of the inning. He had to throw 30 pitches to get through the first, and the damage had already been done.
But the Indians had their chances to climb back into the game. Boston starter Daniel Bard worked himself into a massive jam in the third inning, and the Indians had Asdrubal Cabrera and Travis Hafner bat with the bases loaded and nobody out. Cabrera would work a walk, driving in the first and only run of the game, but Travis Hafner hit a weak grounder to second, starting an inning-ending double play. The Indians would have another opportunity to get back into the game in the fourth, when they placed runners at second and third with one out. The game was 5-1 at this point, but it was still early enough to get to Bard and the Boston bullpen. With one out, Casey Kotchman popped out to shallow right field; the ball was way to shallow for Carlos Santana to score on a sacrifice. Jack Hannahan then line a ball to third, right at Will Middlebrooks to end the inning.
Those blown scoring opportunities dictated the rest of the game. Masterson would give up another run in the sixth; he was out there because the deficit was four and the Indians didn't want to burn their bullpen. In the seventh, Dan Wheeler came in to soak up an inning, and he was going to do it regardless what happened. He would give up six runs on 5 hits, including a Saltalamacchia home run. That may have been the final straw for Dan Wheeler; I'd expect the Indians will be DFA him within the week, for his peripherals have been awful, and recently, so have been the results.
We're getting very near the point in the season where it's no longer a small sample size, and clubs start making meaningful changes to their rosters. Johnny Damon has only been with the club for a couple weeks, but he shouldn't be leading off while he's going through Spring Training mode. Casey Kotchman has a 62 OPS+, and with him only on a one-year deal, the Indians can't wait much longer with that kind of production coming from first base, no matter how good the glove is. I hate to say it, but Matt LaPorta is hitting .336/.413/.645 in Columbus, and he hit .247/.299/.412 (97 OPS+) in Cleveland last year.