Masterson and bullpen pitch Indians to 2-0 shut out of Pirates BY TIMOTHY W. SHIRER SPORTS EDITOR
Coming off a terrible series in Cincinnati where the Cleveland Indians were swept by the Reds, the Indians needed a good pitching performance by Justin Masterson. The big right hander did not disappoint, as he pitched like the 2011 Masterson on the way to the Indians shutting out the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 in front of 31,920 fans at Progressive Field.
The Indains got their only run in the first seven innings of the game in the third inning. With one out Pirates starting pitcher James McDonald walked Asdrubal Cabrera. After Jason Kipnis, who is now hitting .218 (29 for 133) at home, flew out to left field, Carlos Santana came up and scorched a ball just inside the left field line for a double and Cabrera scored. The Indians carried the 1-0 lead all the way to the bottom of the eighth inning.
Meanwhile Masterson was mowing down Pirates in a way that made people feel he was the Indians ace coming into the season. On Friday night Masterson went seven shut out innings, he had great movement on his pitches. He allowed only four hits, while walking three. Masterson also fanned nine Pirates in the game.
Masterson picked up the win for his nice night and improved to 3-6 on the year and lowered his ERA to 4.38.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. It seemed clear that the Pirates were unable to hit Indians pitching on the night, for some reason a 1-0 seemed safe. But some one thing kept Indians fans on the edge of their seats as the eighth inning began and that was the fact Michael Brantley did not have a hit in the game. Brantley brought a 21 game hitting streak into the game and was 0 for 3 on the night heading to the eighth. Reliever Jason Grilli came into the game to begin the inning. Brantley was due up fifth in the inning, therefore two Indians hitters needed to reach base. Shin-Soo Choo did his job and drew a lead off walk to start the inning. Cabrera then struck out on a foul tip. With Jason Kipnis at the plate Choo stole second base, it was Choo's ninth theft of the season. Kipnis then struck out swinging, for the second out. Brantley's last hope to get a chance to extend his streak was Santana, who ealier drove in the Indians only run to this point. Santana did not let Brantley down as he worked a six pitch walk. That was the end of the night for Grilli as Pirates manager Clint Hurdle called on Juan Cruz to get out Brantley. The move backfired as Brantley hit a 1-1 fastball to center field to extend his hitting streak to 22 games and extend the Indians lead to 2-0 as Choo came home on the hit. The streak is the longest by an Indian since Casey Blake hit in 26 in a row in 2007.
Chris Perez then came in and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the Indians, earning his 21st save of the season. Jason McDonald took the loss for the Pirates falling to 5-3 with an ERA of 2.32.
With the win the Indians move to 33-30 and to within a half game of the first place Chicago White Sox. The White Sox lost on Friday night 7-6 to the Los Angeles Dodgers in L.A and are now 34-30.
The Indians and Pirates will play game two of the three game series on Saturday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. at Progressive Field. Ubaldo Jimenez will be on the mound for Cleveland. Jimenez is 6-4 with a 4.91 ERA. Right hander A.J. Burnett will be on the mound for the Pirates. Burnett is 6-2 with a 3.61 ERA..