In the series opener, the Indians were being completely baffled by Baltimore’s Zach Britton for five innings where they looked as if they would never score. A night later, Cleveland’s Justin Masterson was just as good for six. Retiring the first 12 he faced, the Tribe’s ace looked like he was in this one for the long haul.
“He was so good through the first six innings,” said manager Terry Francona. “He had an explosive fastball and a really good breaking ball. He was locating.”
Entering the seventh inning, the Tribe led 3-1 and Masterson had given up just three hits. He had everything working but in the blink of an eye, it all unraveled.
The middle of the tough Baltimore order was due up and with his first pitch of the inning, Masterson hit Adam Jones. It was at that point that I turned to my wife and said “here comes the two-run homer. Right here.” Literally as that sentence came out of my mouth, the AL home run leader Chris Davis absolutely tattooed the first pitch he saw deep into the right-field bleachers to tie the game at three. Davis has that Russell Branyan uppercut swing, except he has learned how to use it for good, rather than for striking out on the regular.
“I got myself in trouble hitting Jones,” Masterson said. “And then Chris Davis does what he’s been doing — he hits a homer. It’s a good lineup. We had been working well through six innings, and unfortunately, we got to the seventh.”
Masterson clearly became rattled as his next four pitches went wide of the zone to Matt Wieters.
After J.J. Hardy’s first pitch lineout, Chris Dickerson fell behind in the count before checking his swing and punching what was almost like a perfectly placed bunt down the third base line. Lonnie Chisenhall charged but his throw wasn’t in time (and was offline). The Orioles were in business and smelled the blood in the water. Up stepped the light-hitting Alexi Casilla. The former Minnesota Twins second baseman entered the game hitting .211 with no homers and five RBIs. So naturally he took a Masterson hanger deep for a three-run, back-breaking bomb. It was hit first home run August of last year. The pitcher he hit it off of? Masterson.
“I’ve had almost 30 at-bats against Masterson, so I know what he throws,” said Casilla, who is now 10-29 lifetime against the Tribe starter. “He’s a great pitcher when he has his sinker and slider working. In the seventh, he just left some pitches in the middle of the plate.”
Literally in about a five minute span, Masterson went from cruising to crashing, yanked after six and a third, giving up six runs on six hits.
“We didn’t expect that to happen,” Francona said. “Masty has been pretty good. He just had a tough inning, and they made him pay for it.”
In the end, the seventh inning completely did them in as the Orioles won 6-3, but the Tribe had plenty of chances early against Chris Tillman. They just couldn’t put him away.
With one out in the first, Mike Aviles’s single was followed by back to back walks to Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher to load the bases. They only would score one run on Michael Brantley’s sacrifice fly. In the second, the Wahoos put the first two men on base via a Mark Reynolds walk and a Chisenhall single. But the inning stalled when Drew Stubbs’s grounder to third caught Reynolds off the bag and he was tagged out in a rundown. Michael Bourn struck out and Aviles grounded out to end that threat.
That’s five base runners and one out in the first two innings and all they had to show for it was one sac fly.
“We had guys on base,” shortstop Mike Aviles said. “We just weren’t able to capitalize. He (Tillman) made his pitches, and he was able to get out of it. That’s what good pitchers do.”
They did get to Tillman in the fifth when Kipnis hit his 10th homer of the season, a two-run shot to left-center. The Tribe’s stud second baseman reached base four times, keeping his ridiculously hot June going. He is now hitting .408 for the month (31-76) with 17 RBIs. But his homer was the last time the Tribe would score.
Tillman went seven innings for the win. Relievers Troy Patton and Jim Johnson did the rest. The Tribe did manage to bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Bourn struck out to end the game.
The third of the four game series tonight will feature Scott Kazmir (4-4, 5.37 ERA) facing off with Baltimore’s Jason Hammel (7-4, 5.30 ERA)
(photo via PD wire services)