ANAHEIM, Calif.: Justin Masterson’s roller coaster season seems to be taking an upward course, as are the Indians, who have won four of six since their 11-game losing streak.
Masterson led the way in Monday night’s 6-2 victory over the Angels.
In his past two starts, he has allowed two runs in 13 innings and has consecutive wins for only the second time this year.
Maybe part of it is the opposition. In seven career starts against the Angels, Masterson (is 3-0 with a 1.35 earned-run average, lowest of any opposing pitcher with at least five starts in the history of the franchise.
“”Masterson did a good job for us tonight,’’ manager Manny Acta said. “”He matches up well with that lineup, because they have a lot of right-handed hitters.’’
Masterson (9-10, 4.50 ERA) pitched a shutout for six innings plus two batters in the seventh, walking three and striking out four. He gave up four hits in the first six innings, but only one of those hits came when there were less than two outs.
“”My last couple of outings have been good, that’s what I’m hoping for,’’ Masterson said. “”I got a couple of breaks here and there. Joe (Smith) did a great job, but overall I felt pretty good.’’
Nevertheless, the Angels started to zero in on him in the sixth, when they hit three hard line smashes. The first was turned into a double play to erase a runner at first. Albert Pujols followed that with a rocket single to center, and the third was a ground ball that Casey Kotchman smothered and took to the first base bag to retire the side.
So when the Angels began the seventh with an infield single and a hit to center, Masterson was told to call it a night. Smith entered and retired the side without a run scoring, striking out two.
“”The key for us was Joe Smith, coming into that situation,’’ Acta said.
Vinnie Pestano had a rare off night, giving up a two-run homer to Pujols in the eighth after walking the leadoff batter, Mike Trout. The homer snapped Pestano’s 21-inning scoreless streak.
After Esmil Rogers gave up two hits to start the ninth, making it a save situation, Chris Perez entered and struck out the side to earn his 32nd save.
“”Esmil was nice enough to give Chris a save appearance to get his (career) 100th,’’ Masterson said, tongue in cheek. “”If that isn’t a team player, I don’t know what is.’’
Succeeding against Angels starter C.J. Wilson was a longshot for the Tribe. In 23 career appearances (five starts) against Cleveland coming, Wilson boasted a 2-1 record, 2.63 earned-run average and a batting average against of .189. Since 2010, he was 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA against the Tribe.
Worse news for the Indians: The aggregate batting average of the lineup he faced Monday night was .152 against him. Shin-Soo Choo had hit the only home run among his lodge brothers.
So considering the circumstances, scoring three runs in 62/3 innings off Wilson was an achievement of note. And never mind that a defensive breakdown didn’t help Wilson’s cause.
Brent Lillibridge led off the third inning with a ground ball to second that was muffed by Howard Kendrick. One out later, Wilson walked Lou Marson, and Jason Donald singled to score Lillibridge. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a single to score Marson.
With two outs and nobody on in the fourth, Lillibridge hit a soaring drive well over the left field wall for his second home run of the season and his second in three games.
“”Now that Lillibridge is getting some at-bats,’’ he’s swinging the bat better,’’ Acta said.
Altogether, Wilson (9-9, 3.32 ERA) gave up hits and one walk, striking out five. One of the three runs charged to him was unearned. He left the game when Marson’s hard ground ball struck him in the hand. The injury was diagnosed as a contusion.
The Indians needed an insurance run in the ninth and got three on a bases loaded walk to Marson, pinch hitter Jason Kipnis’ sacrifice fly and Jason Isringhausen’s wild pitch.
Kipnis, who has been out with a stiff neck, is expected to play tonight.