BALTIMORE: Hard to tell what happened to Justin Masterson on Tuesday night.
Maybe a consultation with a shaman would shed some light. Seemed almost other worldly. Maybe an invisible alien parachuted from his UFO onto Camden Yards and put a hex on him.
Then again, it probably was just one of those baseball things that defy logic.
In the end, it cost the Indians a game, as the Baltimore Orioles rallied for a 6-3 win Tuesday night.
“I was going well through the first six innings,” Masterson said. “Unfortunately I got into the seventh.”
After four innings, Masterson (9-6, 3.76 ERA) was throwing a perfect game, retiring all 12 batters he faced. Adam Jones led off the fifth with a bloop single to center and eventually scored after Chris Davis singled him to third and J.J. Hardy bounced into an RBI force play.
Then came the seventh, when the sky fell on Masterson.
“He was so good through the sixth,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He had an explosive fastball and a really good breaking ball.”
Masterson hit Jones with a pitch to start the seventh, then gave up a first-pitch home run to Davis, his 28th of the season, which leads the majors.
“It was a sinker in the middle of the plate, and Davis did what he’s been doing,” Masterson said.
Masterson followed that by issuing his only walk of the game, to Matt Wieters. One out later, Chris Dickerson tried to check his swing and slapped bouncer just inside the third-base line for a single, and both runners rode home on Alexi Casilla’s three-run homer.
It was not Casilla’s 28th of the year or even his second. Until that moment, Casilla was homerless in 73 at-bats for the season.
“We talked about this to all the pitchers before the series,” Francona said. “When you let them get their arms extended, they are very dangerous one through nine.”
An offensive explosion by the Orioles or a monumental meltdown by Masterson? Or maybe both.
“It was just lack of execution in the seventh for me,” Masterson said. “And they took advantage.”
Masterson denied that one or more of the Orioles’ hits or a pitch he regretted caused him to lose his concentration.
“There was no focus lost,” he said. “I just didn’t execute. You can be focused all you want, but you still have to execute pitches. I’ve had countless games like that. I hope [to have a long career] I have a lot more.”
Mike Aviles was watching the seventh inning from his position at shortstop.
“They put some good swings on the ball, and he left a couple of pitches up,” he said. “But any time Masterson is on the mound, we feel we have a good opportunity to win. He’s got a good sinker, and no matter what ballpark you’re in you think he’s going to keep the ball on the ground.”
Masterson retired 19 batters, seven on strikeouts and seven on ground balls.
The Indians failed to make Chris Tillman pay for his early wildness. He walked two batters in the first inning and one each in the second and third.
The Tribe got one measly run out of it. Aviles delivered a one-out single in the first, which was followed by walks to Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher to fill the bases. Michael Brantley drove in a run with a sacrifice fly but the rally abruptly ended.
Despite putting the first two batters on base in the second, the Indians got nothing, and a leadoff walk to Kipnis in the third didn’t go anywhere.
But Kipnis forced his attention on Tillman (9-2, 3.72 ERA) a little later by going deep for the 10th time this season.
“He’s a lot stronger than people think,” Francona said. “When he hits the ball the other way, he’s all the more dangerous.”
But give Tillman credit. He didn’t get to be 8-2 (coming into the game) for nothing. His only costly pitches came in the fifth, when Michael Bourn led off with a double and Kipnis homered to left with one out to give the Tribe a 3-1 lead that looked as safe as being a guest in LeBron James’ cozy Bath estate.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.