CLEVELAND — Indians pitcher Justin Masterson continued his descent from ace to afterthought Monday night.
The New York Yankees scored five runs off the right-hander in two-plus innings — including a bases-loaded walk to Derek Jeter — paving the way for their 5-3 victory over the Tribe at Progressive Field.
The six-out effort equaled the shortest start of the season for Masterson (4-6, 5.51 ERA), who is 0-2 with a 9.50 ERA over his last five outings — totaling 18 innings — as he battles right knee soreness.
“When you’re not doing a good job at your job, it’s not a good feeling,” the free agent to-be said. “You feel like you’re letting down your guys, all 25 of them who are working their hardest for you.
“I’ve said it before, we’re closer than any other team in baseball, so it’s like you’re hurting your own family when you’re not getting the job done.”
Masterson, who was named to the 2013 American League All-Star team, said he feels “a tick” in his knee when he pitches. The 6-foot-6 Masterson admitted that the injury doesn’t sound significant, but “something so tiny like that can make a difference when you’re throwing a ball 60 feet, 6 inches.”
In light of his ongoing struggles, Cleveland manager Terry Francona didn’t rule out a trip to the disabled list for Masterson to heal up. He lasted just 54 pitches and threw 30 balls against New York.
“We’ll sit and talk to Masty for a little bit, but I don’t think five minutes after a game is the right time to make those decisions,” Francona said.
“It was a tough, tough night for Justin. He didn’t have his command and he fell behind in a lot of counts.”
Yankees right-hander Shane Greene (1-0, 2.84 ERA) carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning of his first MLB start. Nick Swisher broke it up with a two-out solo homer that pulled the Indians within 5-1.
Cleveland added a run in the sixth when Chris Dickerson singled and scored on a hit by Asdrubal Cabrera, while Yan Gomes made it 5-3 in the seventh with a solo shot off New York reliever David Huff.
Dickerson was playing in his first big league game of the season after being acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh earlier in the day.
The Indians brought the potential game-tying run to the plate in the ninth after Michael Brantley led off with a single against fellow AL All-Star Dellin Betances. The rookie reliever promptly retired Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall and Swisher to earn his first save.
“I felt like we fought hard all night, scrapping and clawing our way to where one swing of the bat could have tied the game,” Swisher said. “It was tough at the beginning, though, because this was the first time we’ve seen (Greene), and that always gives a pitcher an advantage at the start.”
Greene allowed two runs in six innings, making the most of his afternoon recall from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It was his second career appearance in the majors.
The Tribe’s bullpen did all it could to keep the game close, pitching seven scoreless innings, three of which took place in a lightning-laden downpour.
Carlos Carrasco tossed three innings, while Kyle Crockett, Marc Rzepczynski, Vinnie Pestano and John Axford went one apiece. The Yankees only advanced two runners to second base against them.
“The guys in the bullpen were awesome, and you could see the way they pitched got the offense excited, too,” Masterson said. “That makes you feel even worse because you’re thinking, ‘If only we had limited the damage in the third.’ Unfortunately, it was close but no cigar tonight.”
Brantley had two hits to raise his batting average to .323 for Cleveland, which fell to 43-45.
Future Hall of Fame shortstop Jeter went 1-for-4 in the opening game of his final series at Progressive Field, while Brian
McCann had three hits and scored twice for the 43-43 Yankees.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland vs. New York Yankees
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Bauer (2-4, 4.42 ERA) vs. Tanaka (12-3, 2.27)
TV/RADIO: STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM