CLEVELAND — The losing streak is over. Unfortunately for the Indians and their fans, a season that has tumbled over the brink continues.
Cleveland avoided tying a dubious club record with a 6-2 victory Wednesday over the Twins at Progressive Field that snapped an 11-game skid. But the Indians’ recent slide — 16 losses in 21 games — has left them all but out of contention with close to two months remaining in a season pegged for the postseason.
Still, with the Indians on the verge of matching the mark for sustained inefficiency, there was reason to celebrate — for obvious reasons.
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“I’m sure there was relief in all of Cleveland and all of the Cleveland fans around the country, like, ‘we can win,”’ said Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who won for the first time since July 23 with an ace-like effort in front of a crowd of 18,805.
Not surprisingly, a positive performance from a member of the rotation helped the Indians avoid a record 12-game losing streak (set in 1931), with Masterson offering up his best outing in close to a month by allowing just two runs on three hits, while striking out seven over seven innings. An abysmal effort from Cleveland’s rotation was at the root of the extended losing ills, with Masterson following Corey Kluber to produce just the second quality start by a Cleveland pitcher over the last 12 games.
“As usual, pitching sets the tone,” manager Manny Acta said. “Pitching got us into this mess, and pitching got us out of it.”
Masterson (8-10, 4.68 ERA) was perfect through the first two innings, holding the Twins scoreless until the fifth when third baseman Alexi Casilla connected on a two-run home run — his first of the season.
Denard Span followed with a double before Masterson regrouped and retired the final nine hitters he faced.
“We finally got back on track and did what we were supposed to do,” Masterson said of his outing.
Masterson got all the runs he required within the first two innings, Cleveland scoring two times apiece in the first and second off Minnesota starter Brian Duensing.
The early advantage must have worked wonders for the Indians’ psyche.
“A few of those RBI singles that have been evading us, we got early,” Acta said.
“Team-wise, I would imagine it helped the hitters (to get the early lead),” Masterson said. “Me, I was a hair selfish. I wanted to do it myself, no matter what it took.”
Masterson got most of his offensive assistance from right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, who went 4-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, plating a run a piece in the first two innings.
The Twins stayed at 2 thanks to scoreless efforts from setup man Vinnie Pestano in the eighth and right-hander Esmil Rogers in the ninth. After the final out was recorded, fireworks were shot from behind the scoreboard, signifying that the Indians had finally won a game.
“It’s like a disease or a virus,” Pestano said of the losing streak. “Sometimes you can’t kick it and you just have to sweat through it. That’s what we did. That’s the first complete ballgame we’ve played in 12 games.
“It was a good game. We had a lot of laughs and joking around after. It’s good to put that one in the rear-view mirror.”
Acta felt his players handled the skid well.
“I think our guys stayed pretty strong mentally,” he said. “They deserve credit for that. All the weight is off everybody’s shoulders. Now they can concentrate on playing to win and not playing not to lose.”
Though they faced a 10 1/2-game deficit standings through Tuesday, Choo said the goal remains unchanged: win the Central Division — no matter how unlikely that appears.
“I know we have a long way to go, but a lot can happen in baseball,” Choo said. “We just have to play hard every day.”
- WHO: Cleveland vs. Boston
- TIME: 7:05
- WHERE: Progressive Field
- PITCHERS: Jimenez (8-11, 4.56 ERA) vs. Doubront (10-5, 4.56)
- TV/RADIO: STO, MLB; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM