Despite scoring just a single run, Cleveland was able to notch a win, turning back American League Cy Young Award candidate Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers 1-0 at Progressive Field.
The win, the Indians’ third straight and eighth in the last 12 games, secured the three-game series for Cleveland, which remained three games behind first-place Detroit in the Central Division standings.
All it took was a solo home run from Michael Bourn, who lined Darvish’s second pitch of the game just over the wall in right field. Bourn had never faced the Japanese phenom before.
“I heard a lot about him and I believe the hype,” Bourn said of the all-star right-hander. “(The homer) was the only offense of the game, but it held up. (Justin) Masterson was unbelievable tonight.”
The Indians had the perfect counterpart to Darvish in Masterson, who performed up to his ace-like status by shutting out a vaunted Texas lineup on just five hits over 7⅔ innings.
Darvish (9-5, 2.80 ERA) struck out 11 over six innings, but Masterson (12-7, 3.42), also an all-star this season, kept pace by fanning eight. Darvish has struck out 10 or more in a major league-leading seven outings, but Masterson was better for longer.
“That was impressive on both sides,” Francona said. “Thankfully for us, Bourny kind of ambushed him there. Masty competed his rear end off. That’s a tough game to win.
“You don’t want to sit and say you’re all impressed with the opponent, but (Darvish) is one of the best I’ve seen.”
On this night, so was Masterson, who notched his third 1-0 win of the year.
“Sometimes you have to win games like that,” Francona said. “To me, that’s the leader of a staff. I think he relishes the responsibility. I think he enjoys it. He’s what you need. You need a guy like that.”
Though his sinker is his bread-and-butter pitch, Masterson also utilized an effective slider to keep Rangers hitters off balance. According to catcher Carlos Santana, it was “perfect.”
“He’s too kind,” Masterson said. “He likes to use that word perfect a lot. It was good to mix it in. I was throwing strikes with it. There were a lot of groundballs and a lot of good plays behind me.”
In two starts since the All-Star break, Masterson has allowed just a run over 14⅔ innings.
“We made some minor adjustments that I think have been really good for me,” Masterson said.
After the Bourn homer, Darvish breezed through Cleveland’s lineup, retiring 12 of the next 15 hitters — nine on strikeouts.
Masterson was in a jam just once, with Texas loading the bases with two outs in the fifth inning after he hit Ian Kinsler with a pitch and allowed a base hit to Engel Beltre. But Masterson kept it scoreless by retiring Nelson Cruz on a grounder to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
The Indians had plenty of pitching outside of Masterson, getting a big out from setup man Joe Smith, who retired Adrian Beltre with a runner on first and two outs in the eighth.
Closer Chris Perez made it eight-for-eight in save opportunities since leaving the disabled list, retiring the side in order in the ninth. The right-hander has allowed just one run over 13 games since being activated from the injured list.
“He’s been looking real good,” Masterson said of Perez. “I think every outing he’s gotten better and better. That’s nice for us to see.”
Perez retired A.J. Pierzynski on a fly ball to start the inning before striking out Elvis Andrus and getting Mitch Moreland to ground out to end the game and earn his 14th save in 16 chances.
“I thought today was the best CP’s thrown the ball all season,” Francona said. “He came out with velocity and command.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.