CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 20: Starting pitcher Justin Masterson #63 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds during an interleague game at Progressive Field on June 20, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Justin Masterson is getting his act together, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
After getting swept in Cincinnati and losing two out of three at home with another long trip looming in just a couple of days, things looked like they were spiraling out of control. The pitching staff seemed a complete mess, especially after Sunday's game. But just three days later, not only did the Indians sweep the series, but thanks to Masterson's complete game, the entire bullpen will have had at least two days off before pitching again.
I'll have to look at the game logs, but I think this was Masterson's best start as an Indian. Not only did he throw a complete game, allowing just 3 hits and a run, but he also managed to strike out nine and not walk a batter, all while throwing 110 pitches. It's hard to be an efficient strikeout pitcher, but Justin managed that tonight, all against a very good offensive club (as we saw in Cincinnati).
The offensive scored in a just a couple of bursts, but they were big ones. Bronson Arroyo, he of the straight leg kick and assorted off-speed oddities, weaseled his way out of some early jams. The Indians seemed on the verge of getting to him almost from the beginning, and they finally did so in the fourth inning. But the damage came from an unexpected source. Johnny Damon, who had missed last night's game thinks to his mishap with the left field wall, seems to be one more bad week from looking for work. So when he hit a two-run homer off Arroyo in the fourth, it not only came at the right time for the Indians, but also Damon himself. He ended the night going 2-for-2 with 2 walks, the type of game the Indians were waiting on. Asdrubal Cabrera, who had won the previous night's game with his longball heroics, capped the five-run inning with a three-run bomb. Just a couple days ago Cabrera had had his worst game of the year, but he's more than made up for that in this series.
With Masterson pitching the way he did, the 5-run lead wasn't in doubt the rest of the way. The Indians tacked on three more runs in the seventh on Lonnie Chisenhall's bases-clearing double. Chisenhall probably shouldn't have even gotten the opportunity, as earlier in the inning the second base umpire ruled that Zack Cozart didn't hold onto Joey Votto's throw to second, though it certainly seemed on TV that the catch was made. In the grand scheme of this game, the extra three runs didn't matter much, though I suppose the Tribe's hideous Pythagorean record will look a tad better because of it.
After giving up a run in the eighth, Masterson returned to the mound in the ninth, and proceeded to end the game on a flourish, striking out the side to end the game (with Votto his last victim).