NEW YORK — When Justin Masterson is as good as he can be and as bad as he has been in the same game, it is not a formula for success.
But the Indians’ 7-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Monday night wasn’t on Masterson, alone.
The Tribe’s offense was spotty at best, eking out four runs against Andy Pettitte and nothing for 4⅓ innings against the Yankees bullpen. In this case, nothing means one hit, allowed by Mariano Rivera.
More photos below.
Making the loss hurt a little more, Asdrubal Cabrera had to leave the game in the fifth inning, when he ran out a ground ball and came up limping. He was helped off the field with an injury described as a strained right quad.
“Asdrubal got it pretty good,” manager Terry Francona said. “We’re sending him back to Cleveland to get it scanned, but most likely he’s going to the DL. We just don’t want to rush into anything.”
Cabrera said he still was feeling pain.
“The last couple of days I felt pretty good,” he said. “It hurts right now a little bit. I’ll go to Cleveland and see how bad it is.”
If Cabrera goes on the disabled list, Mike Aviles will play shortstop every day, something he has done before.
“Mike will shine, I have no doubt,” Francona said. “He can handle it. He’s played every day before.”
In the first two innings, it appeared the Yankees would struggle mightily against Masterson, who struck out one and retired four batters on ground balls.
But in the third, the Yankees loaded the bases on two singles and a walk before Robinson Cano grounded into a force play at the plate to take a little of the danger out of the situation for Masterson.
However, he avoided disaster only for the moment, because Mark Teixeira hit the first pitch he saw into the seats in right for the eighth grand slam of his career. Until that pitch, Teixeira was 1-for-13 against Masterson.
Nevertheless, Masterson (8-4, 3.57 ERA) had little trouble in the fourth and fifth innings, striking out three, before running into trouble in the sixth. A walk to Ichiro Suzuki started a two-run rally that didn’t generate much heat until two were out.
Austin Romine singled off Masterson’s shoulder to move Suzuki to third, and Brett Gardner singled home both runners after Romine had stolen second.
That was not the end of the line for Masterson, but maybe it should have been.
He got Teixeira out to open the seventh but Masterson’s former teammate, Travis Hafner, seemingly reborn in pinstripes, blasted a 2-and-2 pitch over the right-field wall for his ninth home run and 25th RBI of the season.
“Basically it was three hanging sliders that frustrated me,” Masterson said of the pitches to Teixeira, Gardner and Hafner.
Masterson was led away at that point, having giving up seven runs, nine hits and three walks.
“I thought Masterson had good stuff the whole night,” Francona said. “He made a mistake when he was ahead in the count to some guys at the bottom of the order. And that first pitch to Teixeira was where he could get his arms extended, and that was a big blow.”
As far as Tribe batters are concerned, it makes little difference that Pettitte has turned 40 and was making his first start in more than two weeks after a stint on the disabled list. Most of them seem as baffled as ever at his assortment of breaking pitches and change-ups.
Pettitte only lasted 4⅔ innings and gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks, but if not for one play, who knows how long he would have remained in the game.
With the Indians trying to rally in the fifth inning, Carlos Santana stepped to the plate with two outs, runners on second and third and one run home.
David Adams was stationed 30 feet on the grass behind third base, and Santana slammed a wicked ground ball that handcuffed Adams and skipped down the left-field line for a double, as Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher scored to tie the game at 4.
Santana’s hit was legitimate — it might have taken a bad hop — but if Adams had come up with it, Pettitte would have stayed in the game with a two-run lead.
The Tribe drove in its first two runs on an RBI forceout and a sacrifice fly to second baseman Cano, whose back was turned toward the plate when he drifted into short center to make a catch on Aviles. Drew Stubbs, who can fly, scored the run.
“I thought we did a pretty good job against Pettite,” Francona said. “He can be especially tough when he gets a lead. But we did a good job getting back in the game.”
- WHO: Cleveland vs. New York Yankees
- TIME: 7:05
- WHERE: Yankee Stadium
- PITCHERS: Kazmir (3-2, 5.13 ERA) vs. Phelps (3-3, 4.65)
- TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio, MLB; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM