Now that’s more like the Tribe we had come to expect during the first three weeks of May. Solid pitching, a couple of homers, and the bullpen shuts the door. Sounds easy, right? Justin Masterson gave the Tribe everything they needed tonight. They needed their ace to be their stopper, and the hard-throwing righty delivered once again. It was especially nice to see after Justin’s subpar last outing against Boston. He had his strikeout pitch working again as he fanned seven in six innings. The key moment of the game came in the 6th inning when the Reds loaded the bases with no outs on a high chopper, an error, and a hit by pitch. Down 2-0 in the count to Xavier Paul, Masterson threw what appeared to be a changeup to Xavier Paul who whiffed on the pitch. He proceeded to throw the same pitch again and Paul hit a check swing grounder right back to Masterson, who started a 1-2-3 double play. Justin proceeded to get Ryan Hanigan to flyout to end the inning unscathed.
Anyone that follows the Indians closely knows that Justin Masterson almost never throws changeups. He’s almost exclusively a fastball/sinker/slider pitcher, so to see him throw two straight changeups today was surprising. However, as the results showed it was extremely effective as well. He already has 3 good pitches, so throwing a changeup every once in awhile will just be another weapon for him use if he continues it. I liked what I saw from him tonight.
It was nice to see the homers from Reynolds and Giambi again. I love watching both of these guys hit the ball out of the yard. When these guys square up a ball to the sweet spot, you can tell the ball is going to leave the yard just from the sound of the bat. It had been somewhat of a homer drought for Reynolds, so his long ball more than halfway up the bleachers tonight was a great sight to see. Also, I should say that before the season started I wasn’t sure about the whole Jason Giambi thing. I was not sure he had much left in the tank and was worth taking up a roster spot. However, despite his .185 AVG, I have to say I enjoy watching him play and I’m glad that he is a part of this team. He still puts up quality at-bats, and has a good eye at the plate. He certainly brings a big presence to the lineup, and as he has showed over the past couple games, the power is still there if you make a mistake to him. He’s a great hitter, and I’m confident his AVG will continue to climb. Also, I want to note that despite the low AVG, Giambi came into today hitting .357 with men in scoring position. He’s a winning player in my book, regardless of what his current numbers say.
Lastly, I was happy to see the bullpen come in a get the job done today with the only mistake being the homer by Xavier Paul off of Vinnie Pestano. Cody Allen and Joe Smith really weren’t a part of the bullpen’s struggles over the past week. Yeah, Smith gave up that one game-winning hit to Ellsbury, but he was coming into a ridiculous situation where he almost had to throw his first (and only) pitch right down the middle of the plate, so it wasn’t really his fault. However, Allen and Smith got the job done with relative ease in the 7th and 8th innings respectively before handing it over to Pestano in the 9th. Pestano seemed better to me tonight, especially after Xavier Paul who homered off him to start the inning. Pestano’s fastball was back into the low 90s and he retired the next three batters with relative ease after the homer. He seemed to gain control of the strike zone again and was hitting his spots more frequently after the homer as well. The outing for Pestano overall was encouraging to see, despite the homer. What would be even more encouraging to see is for the Tribe to sweep their two-game home set against the Reds tomorrow and split the four-game series against them overall. Let’s hope this is the start of another winning streak for the Indians. Go Tribe!