CLEVELAND — Not even Justin Masterson could save this sinking ship.
Cleveland’s resident skid stopper was far from up to the task Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field, with Oakland pounding its way to a 12-7 victory that completed a four-game sweep of the reeling Indians.
Equaling his shortest outing of the season, Masterson allowed eight runs on eight hits (three home runs) over just four-plus innings, as Cleveland lost for the fifth straight time and for the 27th time in 32 games.
“Justin just didn’t have it today,” Indians manager Manny Acta said of the right-hander, who has stopped three losing streaks this season, including the two longest (nine and 11 games). “The first time through the order he did a good job, then after that, he pitched behind in the count a lot. He just put us in a big hole.”
When the right-hander arrived in the clubhouse prior to Thursday’s game, one of his teammates proclaimed, “Our savior.”
Not so much.
After breezing through the first two innings, Masterson allowed a game-tying solo home run to Coco Crisp in the third before unraveling in the fourth as Oakland scored five times on consecutive two-out hits from the last two hitters in the lineup, George Kottaras (three-run double) and Cliff Pennington (two-run homer).
Masterson served up his third homer of the day, a two-run shot to Josh Reddick in the fourth, that put the A’s up 8-2.
It’s been an inconsistent season for the Indians’ ace, who has tied a franchise record (Mel Harder in 1936) by allowing eight or more runs in five starts. He’s allowed six or more runs in eight of his 28 starts.
“It’s been basically command,” Acta said of Masterson’s problems. “Overall, he’s been a warrior for us. He hasn’t been what we were expecting or what he was expecting, but he has thrown some good games for us.”
Masterson (10-12, 4.91 ERA) entered the day with three wins in his last four starts, including an impressive performance his last time out against the Yankees.
“I’m just as perplexed as anybody,” Masterson said of his up-and-down season. “I thought I was making some decent pitches today at times, and then you look up, you’re like, “This isn’t where it’s supposed to be.’ It’s definitely perplexing to say the least.”
Cleveland’s offense, a sore spot for much of the year, produced a positive run result, scoring five times off Oakland starter Jarrod Parker on eight hits over five innings.
Down 10-3, the Indians scored three times to chase Parker in the bottom of the sixth, but they scored just once more after that, with the A’s adding two more runs off Tony Sipp and Chris Perez.
“I think a bunch of guys were happier with the way we did it (offensively),” said Jason Kipnis, who hit a leadoff homer in the opening inning for the first run of the game.
Still, at the end there was another loss. With a defeat tonight in the series opener against Texas, the Indians, who are 5-23 in August, will match the franchise record for losses in one month, set in July of 1914.
“I’ve never been through a month like this anywhere — minor leagues, winter ball or in the big leagues as a coach or as a manager,” said Acta, whose team has endured nine, 11 and five-game skids over its last 32 games.
“I think without question, we’re ready to put this month away,” Kipnis said. “I’m not saying the new month is automatically going to bring new stuff. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I think we’re ready to wash our hands clean of it and hopefully get started and finish up strong here.”
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• WHO: Cleveland vs. Texas
• TIME: 7:05
• WHERE: Progressive Field
• PITCHERS: Jimenez (9-13, 5.58 ERA) vs. Dempster (8-6, 2.99)
• TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WTAM 1100-AM