Twenty-one final thoughts after a night for Justin Masterson to forget at Fenway Park.
1. With Ubaldo Jimenez gone, I presumed pitching coach Mickey Callaway’s biggest projects this season would be Carlos Carrasco and Zach McAllister. Now Carrasco is in the Indians’ bullpen and McAllister is on the disabled list, set to return next week.
2. I never would have thought the member of the rotation that would keep Callaway up at night would be Justin Masterson.
3. Last season when Masterson took the mound, you assumed the Indians had a good chance to win, or at least keep it close. Now that's how I feel about Corey Kluber.
4. Masterson has had a rollercoaster season. He got no decisions in his first five outings. After his first decision, a loss to the Los Angels Angels in Anaheim, he won two in a row. Then in a span of four starts he lost three, with one no decision in Baltimore in which he gave up five earned runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings and walked three. Then he rebounded to win two in a row.
5. Masterson lasted only two innings Friday, throwing 59 pitches, 28 for strikes. He walked the first two batters in the second and third innings and all four scored.
6. Coming in averaging 8.33 strikeouts per nine innings this season, Masterson didn’t strike out a batter. The last time that happened when he was healthy and starting was May 29, 2011 at Tampa Bay. His previous low this season in strikeouts was one, that at home against Oakland on May 18 when he gave up seven earned runs in a 13-3 loss.
7. What this means is hard to tell, but the Indians have to be concerned. Callaway had been working with Masterson on some mechanical issues, which helped his last two times out. Two starts ago on June 2 at home against Boston, he fanned 10. On June 8 at Texas, he struck out six.
8. “It just didn’t have that same feel, unfortunately, wasn’t able to find that same thing, whatever it might have been,” Masterson said of those adjustments. “It didn’t work how it had been working and it didn’t feel the same tonight and that’s unfortunate. We’ll get that feeling back next time.”
9. It’s not all about strikeouts by any means. Masterson is a ground ball pitcher, too. But strikeouts do seem an indicator of when Masterson is most effective. Manager Terry Francona said when Masterson’s two-seamer has got a lot of life “you see a lot of swing and miss with it down or guys are beating the ball into the ground.”
10. Masterson said he was fine physically. “Physically in the fact that the body is healthy, as far as feeling comfortable and being able to make pitches, no,” he said. “It just didn’t take place.”
11. “I threw too many balls, that’s what more or less what happened,” he said.
12. Francona wasted no time taking Masterson out. The score was 3-3 in the third and the Indians had lost three (now four) in a row. They came out aggressive offensively with six of their seven hits off Red Sox right-hander John Lackey in the first three innings.
13.“Knowing Masty’s track record, the hope is he can reel it back in and kind of get in synch and reel off a couple innings like he can,” Francona explained. “He didn’t look real crisp and he wasn’t commanding and they’ve got the middle of the order coming up. Lackey’s one of the better pitchers in the game, but we were swinging the bats, so I wanted to try to stop it right there and give us a chance to win. You know when you go to the bullpen that early, if somebody has a hiccup you’re going to pay for it. For a while there, (Kyle) Crockett did a good job. We kept it at 5-3, then it got out of hand.”
14. Masterson understood the quick hook. “I walked two guys on like eight pitches,” he said of the third inning. “It’s still 3-3 and he doesn’t seen any positive adjustment coming out of me, so why wouldn’t he take me out at that point in time?”
15. Francona doesn’t want to get frustrated by Masterson’s up-and-down season. It likely means the Indians may be able to afford to bring him back next year as a free agent (if they want to). “Rather than getting frustrated, we want to help where we can. Mickey kills himself trying to help these guys,” Francona said.
16. Masterson, a religious man with a positive outlook, and wasn’t too down about his inconsistencies. He believes he'll work it out. But he realized the magnitude of what he’d done to the bullpen.
17. “Yeah, it’s not as fun as it could be,” he said, chuckling. “It’s been an interesting season for me. But then again, what’s disappointing even more so tonight is making the bullpen have to do more work than they need to. That sets them up for some tough games coming up. Guys are going to have to work harder than they need to and that’s all because of me.”
18. On the positive side, Francona liked what he saw from left-hander Crockett, thrust into the fire after arriving about 90 minutes before game time from Triple-A Columbus. Crockett retired David Ortiz on a fly to left (which required a long run by Michael Brantley), then gave up a two-run double to Mike Napoli. Crockett got the next two hitters to ground out to short.
19. “I thought he showed very good poise in a tough situation,” Francona said of Crockett. “I thought he made one bad pitch to Napoli. Other than that I thought he was tremendous. The presence of Napoli back in their lineup makes their lineup different.” Napoli (left fourth finger sprain) was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday.
20. Indians first baseman (I’m not sure what to call him at this point) Carlos Santana hit his eighth home run of the season in the second inning to give the Indians a 2-0 lead and Francona thought he just missed another later in the game (probably when he flied out to right in the sixth). Although he went 1 for 4 and is batting .176 this season, he’s hitting .285 (8 for 28) in June. He's hitting .300 in his last 12 games dating back to May 22 with three homers and 11 RBI. Before then, he was batting .146 over his first 46 games.
21. “His batting average is going to be low for a while because he had a bad start,” Francona said. “But he’s starting to take some more aggressive swings and staying in the middle of the field. He just missed another one, he just got it a little bit on the end. (If) he gets hot, that will be great for us.”