TORONTO: The Indians are still scoring runs for Justin Masterson as if he gave them bad advice on playing the stock market, but sometimes what seems like a dearth of offense is just enough.
So Masterson was all smiles after the Tribe’s 1-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night at Rogers Centre, despite the continuing scarcity of runs on his behalf.
“I’m trying to give up no runs,” he said, minimizing the importance of the offensive drought when he pitches. “That’s what I’m supposed to do. It doesn’t always happen, because I’m not a robot.”
Don’t tell that to the Blue Jays, who have scored one run and accumulated seven hits against him in 15 innings this season.
“It was just an excellent pitching performance,” Indians manager Manny Acta said.
Masterson (6-8, 4.14 ERA) was awful in his last outing, giving up eight runs in 4⅓ innings to the Tampa Bay Rays. Maybe that gave the Jays a false sense of security. If so, it was the wrong response. In seven of Masterson’s 19 starts, he has limited opposing lineups to one or no runs in seven or more innings.
“Justin felt good coming back from the All-Star break,” Acta said. “It’s understandable that a guy is not going to be perfect every time. But he got back on the horse, and those four days [during the break] make it easier for a guy to forget.”
Asked if he thought about his outing against the Rays, Masterson said, “What outing?”
He did enjoy being away from the game from Monday through Thursday.
“I don’t think I thought about baseball at all,” Masterson said. “I had a little date night with my wife; there was a little Italian restaurant ….”
Everything but Billy Joel serenading the customers.
For the record, it was the second 1-0 Tribe win on the road since 1993. The other came against the New York Yankees, June 13, 2011.
The first hint of Masterson’s superiority: In his seven innings on the mound, no Blue Jays runner reached third and only three got to second. Moreover, 11 batters beat the ball into the dirt for 13 outs, thanks to two double plays, and five others struck out. One hitter was retired on an infield pop fly and two others flied to outfielders.
“I mixed my fastball, a little of everything,” Masterson said. “A key was those double plays, and we put up enough runs.”
Enough runs, right.
Maybe Masterson delivered a winning stock tip to Travis Hafner, who hit a soaring fly ball into the seats in right to lead off the second inning for his eighth home run of the season.
Inasmuch as the Jays accumulated only five hits and one walk off Masterson, it was difficult for them to mount any sort of legitimate rally. So they didn’t.
Only in one inning did they put more than one runner on base when Masterson was on the mound. With one out in the seventh, Edwin Encarnacion walked and Adam Lind dumped a bloop single to left to put runners on first and second, where they remained until the third out.
After Masterson left, Vinnie Pestano struck out two in retiring the side in the eighth, and Chris Perez vanquished the heart of the Jays’ lineup — Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista and Encarnacion — in order to end it.
“Vinnie and Chris were pretty impressive,” Acta said. “Chris faced three guys with 60 home runs already; that’s just halfway through the season.”
Actually the three hitters have 67 homers.
Perez blew his second save of the year the day before the break, but closers have short memories.
“If you’re thinking about that, you’re not a good closer,” Perez said. “I hope I blow a couple of more saves during my career. That will mean I’m doing my job and getting opportunities.”
Is there a reason to practice making outs with runners on base? You’d have thought so, the way Tribe batsmen behaved against starter Ricky Romero (8-5, 5.03 ERA) and the Blue Jays’ bullpen.
In the fourth, Carlos Santana walked and stopped at third on Michael Brantley’s one-out double, but Lou Marston struck out and Johnny Damon grounded out.
In the sixth, Jason Kipnis walked and was picked off first, though technically it was recorded as a caught stealing because his first move was toward second. Because of that, his string of 18 consecutive successful steals came to an end.
But the faux rally kept going. With two out, Santana and Brantley singled to put runners on first and second, but Marson grounded out.
In the seventh against Jason Frasor, Damon led off with an infield single and stole second, but nobody was able to hit the ball out of the infield after that.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.