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The Cleveland Indians were not expected to be among baseball’s best teams in 2011. After the sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers to begin the season the Indians were supposed to be a rebound for the struggling Red sox. Nearly two months later, the Indians are the first team to 30 wins and winners of another game against Boston. With a strong start by former Red Sox Justin Masterson, the Tribe took Monday’s rain-delayed game 3-2.
Acquired in the Victor Martinez trade, Masterson struggled in his first two seasons with Cleveland, posting ERAs north of 4.5 and, in 2010, allowing nearly ten hits per nine innings while walking 3.7 every nine frames as well. This year, Masterson has been dominant: he has allowed hits and walks at lower rates, producing a shiny ERA of 2.50. While he is allowing home runs at a rate likely unsustainable, the tall righty is one of the secrets to Cleveland’s early season success.
Over seven and two-thirds innings Monday, Masterson was charged with just two earned runs on four hits and two walks. He did hit Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury, but he kept his team in the game, trailing by only one run at his exit.
For Clay Buchholz the story is similar: 7.1 innings, four hits, 2 walks and 2 runs. However, Buchholz only allowed one run while he was in the game. The second run scored after Daniel Bard came in. Because of the 127-pitch outing his last time out, Francona wanted to lighten his young starter’s load and summoned Bard even though Buchholz was at just 94 pitches on the night. Unfortunately, Bard allowed the inherited runner to score as well as the go-ahead run, wiping out Clay’s strong work and taking his fourth loss of the year, a surprising number for a top reliever this early in the season.
The Red Sox did rally in the ninth, getting J.D. Drew to third base with just one out. With Drew on third and Jed Lowrie on first, Carl Crawford, who had homered in the fifth, grounded into a game-ending double play, a rarity for the speedy left fielder.
Another strong outing for Buchholz, but one where the run support and bullpen just were not enough to hold back the red hot Indians.
In his last seven appearances Bard has been charged for five runs across 7.1 innings. He has already appeared in twenty-four games, and with Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler on the shelf the past few weeks, Bard has been the only trustworthy pitcher out of the not named Papelbon. Strong outings by his fellow bullpen members may be all he needs to get back on track.
W: Smith (2-1)
L: Bard (1-3)