SEATTLE: What has happened to American League pitchers? Rather, what has happened to the pitchers who tangle with the Indians?
The Tribe defeated the Seattle Mariners 9-8 on Tuesday night, giving the Indians 11 wins in their past 13 games at Safeco Field.
Kevin Millwood certainly didn’t have it, following the example of a Kansas City Royals staff that gave up 32 runs to the Tribe in a three-game set which began this nine-game trip. So far, the Indians have scored 41 runs in their past four games.
For his part, Justin Masterson was no better than Millwood, maybe worse. Masterson was charged with eight runs and four walks in 3⅔ innings.
“It was s game of offense and bullpens, neither of which I’m part of,” Masterson said. “Basically, I was up and in the middle of the plate and they put hits on those pitches.”
In contrast to the starters, the Tribe bullpen, which has had problems of its own, delivered 5⅓ scoreless innings, with Nick Hagadone, Rafael Perez, Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez, who got his third save, doing the honors.
“The bullpen took over and did a fantastic job,” Indians manager Manny Acta said.
The save should have been easy. But instead of Jesus Montero ending the game with a perfectly hit double-play ball with a runner on first, the grounder took a terrible hop and struck shortstop Jason Donald in the face for a single that put runners on first and third with one out.
Donald stayed in the game, and Perez gave up a walk with two outs to load the bases. But Perez induced John Jaso to hit a harmless fly to right for the third out.
“The ball hit me in the mouth,” Donald said. “To say it was a bad hop is an understatement. Hopefully my girlfriend will still date me after she sees the way my mouth looks.”
Donald had no doubt the bouncer would have ended up as a double-play ball.
“When the ball was hit, I thought, ‘That’s two and the game is over,’ ” he said. “Thankfully Chris was able to make some really good pitches.”
The Indians didn’t need a long memory to recall how easy it is to blow a lead. They did it in Kansas City on Saturday night. Leading 9-2 in the middle of the fifth inning, the Tribe eventually found itself in s 9-9 tie until the 10th, when Shin-Soo Choo’s two-run double in the 10th sunk the Royals.
Consequently, then the Mariners exploded for six runs in the fourth inning to take an 8-1 lead, the Indians kind of winked at each other as if to say, “Been there, done that.”
“There wasn’t anybody that thought we were out of the game,” Donald said. “Not the way we came out of Kansas City.”
In the fifth, the Tribe buried Millwood and reliever Erasmo Ramirez under an avalanche of seven runs and six hits — one of them a three-run homer by Carlos Santana — to tie the score.
Twelve batters came to the plate, and eight of them reached base, one on a costly error by shortstop Brendan Ryan. Choo pushed the rally along with a two-run single, and Donald drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. The other run scored on the error.
Millwood once pitched the Tribe in 2005. His season was distinguished by two things: He pitched his tail off, compiling a 2.86 ERA despite going 9-11, and he was an absolute master at pitching out of trouble.
That skill would have served him well Tuesday night, but at 37 it gets a little tougher. He was charged with seven runs (six earned) in four innings.
Masterson struggled for the second start in a row, especially in Seattle’s six-run fourth that included Ichiro Suzuki’s two-run single and an RBI single by Justin Smoak, who had four hits for the game.
In addition to allowing seven hits, including a two-run homer by Jaso in the third inning, Masterson was confounded by the strike zone. During the Mariners’ big rally, he walked two, one of them with the bases loaded, and hit a batter to score another run.
“Obviously, Masterson struggled with his command and got us in a deep hole,” Acta said.
In his previous start against the Chicago White Sox last Wednesday, Masterson pitched five innings and gave up five runs (three earned) on eight hits, a walk and a wild pitch.
The score remained 8-8 until the seventh, when Travis Hafner led off with a single, took second as Shelley Duncan walked and scored on Donald’s two-out single.
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.