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Masterson struggles continue, Yankees edge Indians, 5-3

Rookie Greene sharp in his first big league start stuns Tribe offense

Masterson struggles continue, Yankees edge Indians, 5-3
Yankees starter Shane Greene tossed a solid six innings Monday for his first win.
July 8, 2014
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CLEVELAND—Nine innings.

The amount of innings in a baseball game.

The same amount of innings Justin Masterson has also pitched in his last three starts.

It’s safe to say the All-Star break can’t come soon enough for the one-time Tribe ace.

New York invaded Progressive Field for the first and only time this season Monday night, handing the Indians a 5-3 loss in the series opener of a four game series.

Lasting just three innings in his previous start at Dodger Stadium, Masterson (4-6, 5.51 ERA) would toss only two frames Monday against the Yankees. The right-hander allowed five runs on six hits, walking three while also hitting one batter.

“I felt okay,” Masterson said. “The first inning was great, and then we just started getting out of whack there in the second inning.”

The first seven New York hitters reached base to start the second. Back-to-back doubles by Brian McCann and Brian Roberts gave the Yanks their first run, before tacking on two more in the inning. Masterson issued a walk to Kelly Johnson, hit catcher Francisco Cervelli on a two strike pitch, then walked Derek Jeter to bring home a run after an RBI base-hit by Brett Gardner.

They weren’t done.

Two batters into the third inning, Masterson’s night was over, matching his shortest outing of the season.

“You’re always frustrated when you don’t do well, especially when you’re not doing a good job at your job” the Tribe starter said. “Even though I’m putting forth as much effort as I can, you’re letting down your guys. They’ve been fighting really hard that’s the frustrating part.”

Southpaw Kyle Crockett replaced Materson and allowed inherited runners to score on an RBI single by Ichiro and a RBI groundout to Cervelli, giving the Yankees a quick five run lead.

For awhile it looked as though that would be all the Evil Empire would need, as rookie right-hander Shane Greene(1-0, 2.84 ERA) was sharp in his first big league start.

Making just his second appearance in the majors since April, the 25-year-old took a no-hitter into the fifth inning.

“It’s the first time you ever see a guy so he’s always got the advantage the first time through the lineup,” Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher said. “I felt like the second time through we started seeing him better.”

Swisher definitely did, ending Greene’s no-hit bid in the fifth with his sixth homer of the season, giving the Tribe their first run of the contest.

Playing from behind all night, Cleveland quietly fought their way back as threatening skies rolled in over the ballpark. With rain starting to fall, the Indians bats attempted a late rally. Asdrubal Cabrera inched the club closer with an RBI single in the sixth off Green, before getting into the Yankees bullpen.

“I thought we fought tonight,” Swisher said. “Regardless of how the game started, we made it a game late.”

Greene went a solid six innings, giving up just two runs on four hits while striking out two.

Tribe catcher Yan Gomes greeted former teammate David Huff with his 11th home run to lead off the eighth inning, cutting the deficit to two runs. But it would be too little too late on this night, as reliever Dellin Betances notched his first save to secure a Yankees victory in the ninth.

“That’s our squad,” Swisher said. “Regardless if we feel good or we don’t, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to fight. If you’re going to beat us especially in this ballpark, you’re going to have to work. Obviously it was just a little too much to overcome.”

Not before a brilliant effort from the Tribe bullpen, racking up seven shutout innings of work allowing no walks and striking out seven.

“Our bullpen was phenomenal,” manager Terry Francona said. “They put up zeros and gave us a chance in the ninth with a tying run. That’s a lot to ask.”

Reliever Carlos Carrasco led the bullpen charge tossing three shutout innings with three strikeouts. He has allowed just eight earned runs over 45 1/3 innings (1.59 ERA) in his career in the 'pen, walking 11 while striking out 41.

The problem after the game continued to center around Masterson, who has gone 0-2 with a 9.50 ERA over his last five outings. The right-hander was moved back from his last start after experiencing soreness in his right knee, which could be a growing concern going forward.

I think I feel good, who knows,” Masterson said. “It’s a tick. I thought tonight was going to be a great one. I had a great bullpen session and something so tiny could make such a big difference when you’re going 60 feet six inches.”

The Tribe may be forced to put Masterson on the disabled list to try and work through his issues.

“I don’t think we really want to make decisions literally five minutes after a game,” Francona said. “We’ll sit and talk to Masty about it.”

“We’re not worried about him,” Swisher said. “There’s a lot of baseball left to be played. I don’t think any of us are stressing anything. Whether he has good stuff or he has bad stuff, he’s out there fighting giving everything he’s got.”

Despite the loss, Cleveland (43-45) remains 6 1/2 games behind first place Detroit in the A.L. Central.

Up next for Indians: The Tribe looks to get back in the win column against New York Tuesday night. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (2-4, 4.42 ERA) makes his sixth start at Progressive Field versus Japanese sensation and All-Star Masahiro Tanaka (12-3, 2.27 ERA) at 7:05 p.m.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at jberdysz27@gmail.com.

User Comments

yourtribe
July 8, 2014 - 3:41 PM EDT
Masty and giambi can exchange tendinitis war stories!! Bogus injuries to buy time.

Zach will be here to start Sunday is my guess.
shy
July 8, 2014 - 12:15 PM EDT
There is really no good exit strategy for Masterson at this point. If they put him on the DL, and he's truly hurt- like a rupture or something "personal" fans will be somewhat accepting but will still question why he pitched a half season w it when it was obvious it reduced his ability to Double A level. If they put him on the DL and his injury is ambiguous or suspicious, fans will wonder why the charade, and how taking time off would help anything. If it turns out he pitched on PEDS for 2 years and decided to stop taking them the MLB policy of don't ask don't tell subscribed to by the Player's Association, the ownership, and Bud Selig, will stonewall truthseeking. I think they have to send Justin to Columbus to figure it out- if he can't pitch there, let them put him on the DL. Perhaps he needs to take the Scott Kazmir approach- a year off and a year in Sugarland.
Joe Chengery
July 8, 2014 - 11:36 AM EDT
Tony,

This was my concern with Kipnis even last year. Truth be told, I don't see Kipnis as the cornerstone some do- I didn't even last year. This was all the more reason why I was against the idea of trading Ramirez or pigeon-holing him as just a "utility guy." Virtually everything Kipnis can do, Ramirez can do as well, if not better. The only advantage Kipnis MIGHT have might be slightly better power, but that's even debatable, as I think Kipnis is probably no more than a 10-15 HR guy at best. I think in time, Ramirez could be a 5-10, maybe an outside chance at being a 10-15 HR, guy. Even if only a 5-10 HR guy, that's only a minor advantage for Kipnis, IF Kipnis is truly a 10-15 HR guy, which is debatable at this point.

Ramirez is a better defender at second, he has better speed, he has Kipnis' strike zone judgment or better (haven't checked Kipnis' stats of late, but I think he's fallen off here again with several multi strikeout games), and Ramirez is much younger than Kipnis, so there's still a bit of projection left (why I think Kipnis' power advantage is minor at best).

Look back at Kipnis' OPS for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and he hasn't ONE month at or above .800 since LAST JUNE! He still hasn't hit a HR since he returned a little over a month ago, and he only has a handful of extra base hits- all the more reason why he can't keep batting between Brantley, Santana, Chisenhall, and Gomes- those are your four best, most consistent hitters this season and where the bulk of the offense has been coming from and will likely continue to come from. Kipnis should be batting behind them; I'm not sure batting him leadoff will help, though I know the options are limited (calling Ramirez up and putting him there might be an option and a beneficial one for the Indians, especially for next year and beyond).

What's troubling for me about Kipnis (besides that contract, which may hurt the Indians long-term unless they can get out from it in a couple of years if Kipnis can reestablish his value, and you have Ramirez, Wendle, Rodriguez at 2B, allowing you to trade Kipnis down the road- yes, it's early to consider trading him, but as I said, I don't see him as a future cornerstone, and I haven't for around a year now)- have you noticed how few balls he drives the other way? I don't mean bloopers and seeing-eye grounders- I mean balls that are pounded in the opposite field gap and down the line. Kipnis is not as skilled at doing that as Brantley, Santana, Gomes, and even Chisenhall. In fact, I think I've seen Chisenhall drive more balls the opposite way this season than I have Kipnis throughout his entire three years or so up here. He pulls a lot of balls, with the occasional blooper to center or left; not many balls are driven with authority to center, and even fewer the other way- that's a major reason why I think he hasn't hit closer to or over .300 despite enough experience now at the ML level, nor his power numbers going up as some predicted. In fact, he seems to be hitting more ground balls than driving the ball consistently - not sure if I'm right on that, but it seems that way.

That's why it's mind-boggling to me why Francona keeps putting him fifth ahead of Chisenhall and Gomes, both of whom have been putting up better at-bats all season and have gotten far more results- Kipnis has killed several rallies that Brantley and/or Santana have started in the time he has returned because Francona refuses to bat him behind Chisenhall and Gomes. It's pretty obvious just looking at the batting averages who's been more consistent and productive, let alone when you go into the advanced metrics such as hits by direction, hits in specific counts, etc.

Removing Kipnis from the five spot permanently even after Bourn and/or Morgan return would almost certainly boost this offense where they would be bound to score at least one to two more runs per game- with the pitching we've been getting largely of late, it could provide us with a run we need to still realistically make the postseason in 2014.
Walter
July 8, 2014 - 9:51 AM EDT
Many wanted the Indians to sign Masterson long term. Good thing they did not. Since he offers very little trade value the main question is do you offer him QO? Logic would say yes, because he follows the pattern of good year followed by bad year than good year. The problem is he probably would accept the QO and the Indians would be strapped on what they could spend this off season.

Because of the Swisher and Bourn contracts, the Indians would need to actually depend on some of there prospects to help the team next year, or used in trades to reload for another run in 15.
Tony
July 8, 2014 - 9:48 AM EDT
I can't figure Kipnis out. Maybe he is still battling the oblique, or maybe his hot first half last year was a flash in the pan. He is not consistent. One thing is for sure is that the Indians can't have a below average defender at second base who is not hitting. His offense covered up some of those limitations, but this year the offense and the defense have both taken a considerable step back.
Homer
July 8, 2014 - 9:44 AM EDT
League Park,

Basically agree, but I'd listen on anyone...doesn't mean I'd move any of those unless I got back exactly what I wanted.
Homer
July 8, 2014 - 9:42 AM EDT
Wow! The Tribe would really be stuck right now if they locked Masterson up for 3 yrs. Hard to say. What's going on with him. Is it the knee? Shoulder? Elbow? They insist it's a minor knee injury, so what gives? Why not DL him early to save him for the backend of the season? I'm guessing he gets DL'd or temp. moved to the bullpen.
LeaguePark
July 8, 2014 - 7:57 AM EDT
add Carrasco to my keeper list
LeaguePark
July 8, 2014 - 7:56 AM EDT
Kipnis is having a horrible season. I'm willing to listen to offers for anyone but Lindor, Gomes, Brantley, Chisenhall, Kluber, Salazar, Crockett, Shaw and Allen
Hiram
July 8, 2014 - 7:56 AM EDT
Joe Chengery,


I agree with everything you said. You can't give Masterson another start and how they did Carrasco was flat out embarrassing. I can't elaborate anymore than that because you've covered all the topics so eloquently.
SpellMachine
July 8, 2014 - 6:50 AM EDT
Hi Norm, is the way you feel about KipNIS the same way most people feel about you? You know, don't add much to really anything in anyone's life? Ponder that shit a bit, won't you?

God, do u suck ass.
Norm
July 8, 2014 - 4:18 AM EDT
Hi Jim, Crockett was not great but I think the blame for the inherited runners scoring belonged to Kipnes' defense to a great extent. Even the announcers knew it and commented. Kipnes is just not the player he has been in the past and does not add much to the team.
Joe Chengery
July 8, 2014 - 1:40 AM EDT
If the Indians have any real chance of staying in the race and making a run at the postseason in 2014, Masterson must be removed from the rotation NOW. Quite honestly, he should have been removed a few to several starts back- he has progressively gotten worse over the last 4-6 weeks. In all honesty, his command is as bad or worse than Jimenez's was in 2012, and he is pitching as bad or worse than Jimenez was in 2012, and similarly, his velocity has declined as well, just as Jimenez's did (though I think Jimenez was still in the low-90s- Masterson is not even hitting that with most of his pitches). Plus, Masterson is only giving you three innings a start- Jimenez was giving you four to five innings back in 2012, all the more reason why Masterson might actually be doing worse than Jimenez was then.

Carrasco can give you a better chance to win, and he was pitching better than this when he was yanked from the rotation (quicker than I would have done). So does House. So does McAllister. At least two of those three need to be in the rotation now, whether the Indians stay in the race to battle for a postseason spot in 2014 or fall back, regroup, and strengthen themselves for 2015. (I'm guessing by the Dickerson acquisition, they're still going for it in 2014- that still necessitates removing Masterson from the rotation, as he is not your best option for winning right now, and hasn't been since late May, early June, maybe even earlier than that).

Even if Masterson never starts another game for the Indians, the time has come where he has to be removed. Whether he is put on the disabled list if there is an injury or shift him to the bullpen and try to work out the mechanical issues there- the Indians cannot keep sending him out there every fifth day when you have at least two better options (Carrasco and McAllister) not currently in the rotation.

The good thing was that they did not resign Masterson to a long-term deal (even 2-3 years would have been risky). The bad thing is that knowing what to do with Masterson in the coming months is a big question mark. It's unlikely he'll fetch much of anything on the trade market with his decreased velocity and poor results. However, the way he is pitching and questions about his health and longevity, can the Indians really offer the QO to him this offseason? The way he is currently pitching, it's quite possible that Masterson would take it, hampering the Indians' payroll for 2015 and no extra draft pick, as I can't see any team offering a long-term contract to him for sizable dollars with the way he is pitching with the lack of command and diminished velocity. I think the QO would be around $14-16M- does anyone see him getting that annual salary or even close to that on the open market at this point?

So, what should the Indians do with Masterson? Short-term, he definitely has to be removed from the rotation. Long-term, presuming he doesn't get traded because he likely won't fetch much to anything, how do the Indians proceed: QO or just let him go and get nothing in return?

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