November 26, 2014

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Indians 2, White Sox 0: Justin Masterson finds winning way as he blanks Chicago

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Saturday in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Saturday in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — Justin Masterson’s lengthy victory drought finally ended Saturday night.

The Cleveland right-hander tossed 7⅓ innings of four-hit baseball, earning his first win since Aug. 21, as the Tribe blanked the Chicago White Sox 2-0 at Progressive Field.

Masterson (1-1, 4.01 ERA) had gone eight starts and 11 appearances since his last win, but insisted that the dry spell wasn’t on his mind throughout the game. He struck out six and walked one in a 101-pitch effort.

“It’s always nice to go out and pitch well, but this was a total team victory,” said Masterson, who is 9-5 with a 2.40 ERA in 21 career games against the White Sox. “Everybody was picking up everybody else and having a good time, like you have to in this game.

“I also had some luck on the mound and we took advantage of their mistakes, so it was a good day all-around.”

Both of Cleveland’s runs were unearned and made a hard-luck loser out of White Sox rookie Scott Carroll (1-1, 0.68 ERA). The 29-year-old righty scattered five hits in six innings, but was let down by his teammates’ poor defense.

The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the second when third baseman Marcus Semien dropped David Murphy’s two-out popup in front of the mound, allowing Lonnie Chisenhall to score.

Chicago gave the Tribe another gift in the fifth as catcher Tyler Flowers flung the ball into right field while attempting to throw out a bunting Jose Ramirez. The young speedster took second on the error, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Aviles, then came around on Nick Swisher’s sacrifice fly.

“We caught a break in the first inning and we manufactured a run in the fifth,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said, chuckling. “And I’ll tell you, that little (expletive) Ramirez is all over the place. He never stops going.

“This shows you that sometimes the little things do add up and make a difference, especially when you get pitching as good as we did.”

Cody Allen relieved Masterson with one on and one out in the eighth, but found himself in a bigger jam when Murphy had Gordon Beckham’s two-out drive to the wall bounce out of his glove.

Allen, however, was unfazed and struck out MLB home run leader Jose Abreu on a pitch in the dirt. John Axford followed with a perfect ninth for his ninth save in 10 chances this season.

“Really, our whole bullpen has been pretty good all year,” Axford said. “A lot of Chicago’s guys are tough outs right now, but Masty and Cody made some great pitches.”

The White Sox — 5-20 against the Indians since the start of 2013 — squandered their golden opportunity in the fifth when they loaded the bases without the benefit of a hit.
With one out, Semien lined the ball hard toward right field, but Swisher made a diving grab and tagged the base for an inning-ending double play.

“That was terrible and I wish he wouldn’t have done it,” Masterson deadpanned. “No, it was a great play and Nick was really excited about it. He yelled to me, ‘I’m back,’ before we even got off the field.”

Francona might have been even more excited.

“Swish made the play of the night,” he said. “All three guys probably score if he doesn’t catch it, so that was a huge pick-me-up for us.”

Adding to the drama, the Tribe was down to one spare position player — catcher George Kottaras — in the final four innings after Michael Bourn (left hamstring tightness) and Jason Giambi (right calf cramp) exited early.

Center fielder Bourn had surgery on the same hamstring on Oct. 15, but Francona downplayed the injury.

“I don’t think it’s anything devastating, and neither does Bourny,” he said. “But we’ll all know more in the morning.”

Designated hitter Giambi also received a positive medical report, telling reporters: “It’s fine now. I just couldn’t get it to stop cramping a little earlier.”

Giambi popped out and hit into a double play before departing, making him 0-for-10 on the year. He went 0-for-4 in spring training and has not recorded a hit in any game since Sept. 25 against the White Sox.

Cleveland committed two more errors, increasing its American League-leading total to 30. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera booted a grounder in the third, while third baseman Chisenhall made a wide throw to first in the fifth.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

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