Twelve final thoughts for the Indians’ season-high 12 runs, their most since Sept. 27 at Minnesota.
1. After Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco lasted just 3.2 and 4.2 innings, respectively, in the first two games of the series, Indians manager Terry Francona expected Justin Masterson to live up to his responsibility as the team’s ace and save an overworked bullpen. That was not to be the case. Masterson became the third starter of the series not to finish the fifth inning and the sixth in the Indians’ 12 games. It’s a disturbing statistic, to say the least, even though Francona doesn’t believe trends can be established in such a short span.
2. Masterson struggled from the outset, needing 37 pitches in the first inning. He went 4.2 innings and gave up six runs (five earned) on seven hits. He walked five and struck out seven. He surrendered a home run to Miami University product Adam Eaton.
3. Masterson seemed to labor in every inning but the second. Always optimistic, he seemed especially so after the game, attributing most of his problems to bad breaks. “I felt pretty good,” he said. “Going out there I had a really good slider, finally found my slider again. Sinker was moving a lot, the four-seamer was just average, sometimes a little bit slower than I wanted it to be, but threw a couple of good ones. But overall just not catching any breaks, that’s a part of baseball. You make some decent pitches, broken bats here and there, ground balls that just go by guys, that’s kind of what you get every once in a while within this game.”
4. Save for the home run, Masterson did not give up another extra-base hit. Two of the batters he walked scored. Except for Eaton’s shot to right, the White Sox cobbled together walks, singles, fielder’s choices and a hit batter for six runs.
5. “Again, we’re breaking a guys bat, it just happened to still make it to the outfield or just get past a guy or hit it through Swisher’s glove,” Masterson said. “He crushed that one, but just in the overall sense it was nice. I mean yeah, a lot of runs scored somehow, some way, but I was decently happy with how things took place as far as how I felt when I let go of the ball. Sometimes after letting go of the ball the things I can’t control, they got me a little bit.”
6. Francona was not overly critical of Masterson, citing a first-inning error by third baseman Mike Aviles that cost Masterson a double play. “We're six pitches into the game and he thinks he got a double-play ball and all of a sudden it's runners at first and third and you have to start pitching,” Francona said. “He never really settled in. (He had) real good movement on his two-seamer. Five walks, a hit batsman. That's a lot of traffic in five innings.”
7. The outing was not ugly enough to question what kind of season Masterson is going to have. But luckily for him, the bullpen was superb Saturday and he knew it. Luckily for the Indians, they have an off day Monday and a 90 percent chance of thunderstorms Sunday could scuttle the finale of this series, giving the bullpen needed rest.
8. “Our bullpen is always tough,” Masterson said. “That’s what’s great about this team. They did a great job. I was just hoping, ‘Keep it close. 5-5, 6-5, 6-6.’ We keep it there, guys get a lead, bullpen’s going to come in and shut the door just like they’ve been doing. They’ve been working hard and do an incredible job of it. Hopefully here soon we can give a little bit of a breather.”
9. Masterson didn’t think the short outings from himself, Salazar and Carrasco was a bad sign for the starting rotation. “We just haven’t been able to get deep into the ballgame,” he said. “We’ve all had glimpses of great things and then we’ve kind of gotten unraveled ever so slightly as we’ve gone along. Again, and you look at it too, there have been some tough breaks for other guys. You look at certain plays that go this way or that way and it could be a lot different story. There’s no one to blame but ourselves because we continue to hurt ourselves and get in trouble. But I think after getting a couple starts under our belts, getting our feet wet, I think you’re going to continue to see better things. As the weather heats up, I think we’re going to heat up, too.”
10. Reliever Josh Outman (2-0, 1.69) picked up the win. He came in for Masterson in the fifth and also pitched a scoreless sixth as the bullpen shut out the White Sox over the final 4.1 innings. Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen and John Axford followed Outman.
11. “It was great,” Outman said of the bullpen. “Obviously Justin’s the leader of this pitching staff. He didn’t have his best stuff, he battled as best he could. Regardless of what the score was, the team was still in the game when he came out. To kind of feed off that, the way he handled the business without his best stuff, we were able to pick him up from there. The offense was able to pick us up down the stretch. That’s kind of what we needed to get rolling again. The offense had great production towards the tail end and they were picking each other up from top to bottom and getting the big hits.”
12. Nick Swisher said Saturday’s result seemed like a big victory. It felt that way to me, too, especially with a three-game series in Detroit starting Tuesday.