CLEVELAND: Justin Masterson just didn’t have it — again.
And this may have been the last shot for the former Indians ace and All-Star pitcher, who hasn’t been able to find the command for a majority of this season.
The Indians lost 5-3 Monday night at Progressive Field in the opener of a four-game series against the New York Yankees.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Masterson, who may or may not still be trying to pitch though a sore knee, just can’t seem to get his long limbs moving in the right direction at the same time. That point has been driven home in ugly fashion repeatedly over the last month, as he’s averaged 3⅔ innings pitched over his past five starts.
In Monday’s debacle, Masterson (4-6) spotted the visitors a 5-0 lead in only two-plus innings. Cleveland’s Opening Day starter allowed five runs and six hits. His troubles started quickly in a second inning that went like this: back-to-back doubles to Brian McCann and Brian Roberts, an Ichiro Suzuki single, a Kelly Johnson walk, Francisco Cervelli getting drilled in the left thigh, and a mound visit by pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
Indians first baseman Carlos Santana and catcher Yan Gomes finally put an end to the lengthy and hard-to-watch inning by turning a highlight-reel double play on a ball off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury. By the time the dust settled, rookie left-hander Kyle Crockett had scrambled to his feet and was warming in the Tribe bullpen with Masterson having thrown 43 pitches through the first two innings.
Indians manager Terry Francona tried not to go to the bullpen early again, so Masterson came back out for the third inning. After Masterson allowed the first two batters to reach safely on a walk and a hit, Crockett took over.
He, too, struggled, giving up an RBI single to Suzuki, being called for a balk and hitting Johnson to allow both of his inherited runs to score.
Meanwhile, Yankees rookie pitcher Shane Greene was in the midst of no-hitting the Indians through the first four innings.
Greene continued to cruise in dominating fashion for two more outs in the fifth inning — having retiring the first 14 batters he faced en route to his first major-league win.
The Indians’ first hit came in dramatic fashion, when struggling designated hitter Nick Swisher launched a two-out solo homer into the bleachers in left field during the fifth inning.
With the first hit out of the way, Tribe shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera delivered another two-out run for the Tribe the next inning via an RBI single to left as well.
In the eighth, Gomes led off with a 384-foot solo homer off Yankees reliever David Huff, a former Indians pitcher and No. 1 pick, trimming the Yankees’ lead further to two runs.
That was as close as the Tribe got as right-hander Dellin Betances went on to earn his first career save in the ninth inning after Michael Brantley’s leadoff single went for naught.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.