On a crisp night at home, the Indians regained sole position of second place in the Central Division, taking the series from the Kansas City Royals following a 6-to-3 win. The club now trails the Tigers by 3.5 games.
Right-hander Justin Masterson turned in another solid effort, going six-and-a-third while allowing just two earned runs with eight punch outs and two walks.
Masterson, who’s already equaled his overall production from a year ago, has totaled two wins above replacement (FanGraphs version) through his first 16 starts, the 13th best mark among starting pitchers in the AL. The Jamaican-born hurler wasn’t overly sharp last night and needed several nifty to plays by first baseman Mark Reynolds to work out of some potential jams. But he was able to keep the team in the game until the offense showed signs of life.
After being silenced by Royals starter Luis Mendoza for five innings, who’s only mistake up to that point was a solo dinger to Michael Brantley, the Tribe bats came alive in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Drew Stubbs (.235/.286/.373) led off with a single to left and was followed by a four-pitch walk to center fielder Michael Bourn. Mike Aviles, filling in for the injured Asdrubal Cabrera, hit a frozen rope that caromed off the base of the wall to plate Stubbs. A Jason Kipnis bunt single pushed the bags full before a Brantley sacrifice fly brought in the final run in the inning.
Bryan Shaw relieved Masterson in the seventh inning and worked an inning and two-thirds, allowing one hit and striking out one. Side-winder and typically reliable Joe Smith gave up an infield single to Alcides Escobar, who eventually scored on a deep double by Eric Hosmer.
And despite the struggles of Vinnie Pestano and loss of Chris Perez, the Tribe’s bullpen is sporting a 2.12 ERA overall the last two weeks.
The win marks the club’s sixth in its last eight games. The Indians have today off and start a three-game series against the Twins on Friday (Sam Deduno vs. Scott Kazmir).