Justin Masterson, 0-5 on the year, was pitching for the Tribe so naturally he did not come away with the win yesterday against the Yankees. But it certainly wasn’t his fault. Masterson, who went only 4 innings and was rocked in his last outing against Chicago, pitched 6 scoreless innings in a tight game at Yankee Stadium. He had great movement on his fastball as he continually ran it in on right-handed hitters and managed to avoid the problems against lefties that have plagued him all season. He maintained his excellent strikeout rate, fanning 8 and walking only 1.
After his previous start, many believed he would fall out of the rotation for the Yankees series but Manny Acta seems committed to Masterson longterm. Acta was quoted prior to Sunday’s game :”We want to see him command his fastball. We are convinced if he can command his fastball, he can be effective for us every five days…It’s a process,” he said. “This kid didn’t even have that many minor-league innings. He’s developed up here. He pitched out of the pen with the Red Sox. It’s not an easy thing to do.” Well he commanded the fastball extremely well yesterday and hopefully this will be the beginning of a good trend. Unfortunately, they still play 9 innings.
Masterson was chased in the 7th after a Derek Jeter single up the middle brought home Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher. With Gardner on first, the Indians let him take 2nd as they wanted Masterson to focus on getting Jeter for the 3rd out. It led to the 2 run single and forced him out of the game. Tony Sipp came on to try and make Masterson’s efforts hold up. He failed miserably. Sipp had been rock solid for the Tribe but Yankee Stadium has been his house of horrors this weekend. He gave up a grand slam bomb to Robbie Cano on Friday. Sunday he instantly gave up a double to Curtis Granderson, who struggles mightily against lefties. Mark Teixeria came to the plate and hit what looked like a 500 foot homer to left to erase the hard fought lead the Indians had built behind the outing of their starter.
Even with Masterson’s pitching, you cannot expect to beat the Yankees scoring 3 runs – the customary offensive output for the Tribe this year. The unproven young guys – Crowe, Marson, Donald – have not wilted on the big stage this series. Veterans Hafner, Peralta, Choo, Branyan, Kearns failed to get anything going Sunday.
Exhibit A was a leadoff double by Trevor Crowe in the 6th on a misplayed ball by Gardner in left. Maintaining a 1-0 lead from a Crowe single that scored Marson in the 3rd, the Indians absolutely had to get him home with the heart of the order coming up. Choo struck out. Hafner grounded out to first on an admittedly great play by Teixeira. Kearns struck out. The following inning, the Indians would manufacture a run on a Derek Jeter error after Marson put the ball in play to score Valbuena after he had stolen 2nd. Marson came home on a Jason Donald triple ripped off a right field wall that left Nick Swisher seeing stars. The lead was 3-0 all due to the trio of Crowe, Marson, and Donald.
But as I noted above, 3 runs all generated by your unproven young guys at the bottom of the order will not cut it against the Yankees. The bullpen, including yesterday’s call-up Jensen Lewis, imploded and the game that they had battled to lead for over 2 hours against the defending world champs was lost in a disastrously quick 25 minute span.
As we know by know, however frustrating, this season is more about development than wins and losses. Masterson’s outing was an encouraging improvement and he articulated this afterwards, “We made a little mechanical adjustment,” he said. “It just keeps me on top of the ball. I felt before we were dropped down a little more than what we had been. It was a much better day with control than what we’ve had so far. It was fun. I had a good time out there.”
The Indians will finish the series with another 1 o’clock start today. With the bullpen worn down and in flux and Grady Sizemore headed for an extended stay on the DL, Mitch Talbot will try to get the Tribe a series split while Andy Pettitte goes for the Yankees.
Brendan is a weekend editor at WaitingForNextYear. He has been writing for the site since March of 2009. He went to college in Boston during a run of insufferable Beantown championships that only served to reinforce his Cleveland allegiance and fandom which he transcribes to you here at WFNY.