They aren’t saying it now, but the “strained rib cage” is a usual sign of an oblique injury, which we have seen many times before from Tribe pitchers and if this is the case, Masterson would be lost for the pivotal month of September. The big man may be the most indispensable player on the team.
We won’t know the severity of the injury until later today when Masterson is scheduled for an MRI, but it is no hard to be pessimistic if you are an Indians fan.
“He’s the head of our team, basically,” said Jason Kipnis. “He’s the workhorse. He’s the big fella that you feel confident in every time he goes out there. You look at guys like him to stop losing streaks and to give us a quality game where we can get refocused. All we can do now is wish him a speedy recovery.”
Facing the team they are in direction competition with for the second Wild Card spot, the Baltimore Orioles, Masterson wasn’t right almost from the jump. His velocity wasn’t there which raised concerns and catcher Carlos Santana knew it.
Trainer Brian Desjardins and Manager Terry Francona came out to see him in the middle of the at-bat to Matt Wieters in the second. He stayed in the game briefly, but after giving up a single to Wieters, Santana told him “you’re done.” Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera signaled to the dugout and Masterson’s day was over.
“Earlier in the year I had similar soreness leading up to the game,” said Masterson. “It didn’t mean anything so that’s why I wasn’t really scared. I thought putting some hot stuff on it (after the first inning) would be good, but somehow it wanted to tighten it up.”
With Masterson out of the game with nobody out in the second inning, the Orioles caught a huge break. The Indians didn’t have long man Carlos Carrasco as he is back in AAA for a few more days (sent out to make room for Jason Kubel) and it put them in a real bind. Francona began to trot out one Columbus Clipper after another in attempts to get the game to the middle innings. Up first was Preston Guilmet was wasn’t fooling anyone.
Nick Markakis greeted him with a single to put two on with nobody out. After J.J. Hardy’s fly out to deep left, Nate McClouth doubled in Wieters to put the Orioles on top. The Tribe appealed that Markakis had missed second base on his way to third and actually won the appeal. To minimize the damage, Guilmet needed one more big out. Unfortunately he walked the ninth place batter, light-hitting Alexi Casilla and then was victimized by a Brian Roberts two-run double.
With the way the Indians are swinging the bats, a three-run deficit seems insurmountable. It would get worse in the fourth as lefty Nick Hagadone gave up a two-run blast to McClouth, a left-handed batter. Hagadone showed the best and the worst of himself in his two innings of work. He looked impressive in a 1-2-3 third, but then gave up the big fly in the fourth, a problem that plagued him when he was up in Cleveland earlier in the year.
The bats could never get anything going against Bud Norris, the man who came over from Houston in a trade deadline deal. He went seven innings and gave up just one run on four hits, a Kipnis solo blast in the seventh. He struck out eight, walked just one, and threw just 92 pitches. The Tribe’s approach against him was in stark contrast to a day before when they worked Justin Verlander hard despite not scoring against him.
When asked what made Norris so good, Kipnis replied ”He had a scheduled start against our offense. He was around the zone for most of the day and he kept the ball down for the most part and got ahead of guys. But, right now, like I said — jokingly or not — he’s catching us at a good time.”
The Tribe inched to within three on Lonnie Chisenhall’s homer in the eighth, but the Orioles scored two big insurance runs off of Marc Rzepzynski in the top of the ninth. Lefty Brian Matusz would close out the 7-2 win by striking out two of the three Indians he faced.
While it was a tough loss in a big spot, it is tough to not point to Masterson’s injury as the game-changer, despite the lack of offense. The hope is that the injury is mild and he can somehow return relatively soon.
“It might be a couple days’ rest,” Masterson said. “If it is any more serious than I think it is, we have some good guys in place that can do a lot of work. It’s not going to be fun, if that is the case, but we’re hoping that things will be all right.”
The Tribe has to bounce back and take these next two games to stay afloat with the soft schedule coming up. Although the schedule help wont matter unless the bats don’t wake up. It won’t be easy tonight against Baltimore’s Chris Tillman. The Tribe counters with Ubaldo Jimenez.
(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)