Rays Solve Justin Masterson Early, Bullpen Late; Indians Lose Finale Of Series 7-4

Two teams sporting impressive streaks go head-to-head in Cleveland for three games

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Indians Vs. Rays Final: Another Slow Start Dooms Cleveland As Tampa Bay Wins Again, 7-4

For the second straight game Tampa Bay jumped on an Indians’ starter early, and for the second straight game the Tribe’s offense woke up too late, as the Rays beat Cleveland this afternoon at Progressive Field 7-4 to take 2-of-3 from the suddenly-struggling Indians.

This time Justin Masterson (5-1, 2.73 ERA) was the victim, as the Rays put four runs on the board in the second inning to make the rest of the game an uphill climb which The Good Guys were unable to navigate.

James Shields took a page from David Price’s book from Wednesday night, keeping Cleveland off the board until the sixth inning and improving to 4-1 on the season with seven innings of two-run, seven-hit ball, with one walk and seven strikeouts. Shields’ ERA climbed to 2.08, but he had plenty enough on this day to drop Cleveland to 23-13.

With the loss the Indians’ lead in the AL Central will drop to either four games or to 3 1/2, depending on what Kansas City does tonight in New York. If the Royals win, they will retain second place and close to within 3 1/2, but if the Yankees win, Detroit will move into second and the Cleveland lead will be four games over the Tigers.

After Masterson breezed through the first, he got knocked around for four hits and those four runs in the second. Evan Longoria walked leading off, followed by a single from Matt Joyce, moving Longoria to second. Casey Kotchman then singled to right to load the bases.

Masterson was able to get the first out when Elliot Johnson grounded to third and Jack Hannahan came home to get the force, but then with one out Reid Brignac doubled to left, scoring Joyce and Kotchman. Then, with two outs, Sam Fuld singled, driving in Johnson and Brignac, and the Rays had a nice big lead for Shields.

The Rays tacked on a run in the sixth when Johnson reached on a squeeze bunt, scoring Joyce and making it 5-0 Tampa Bay.

The Indians finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth when Asdrubal Cabrera led off with his sixth homer of the year. Later in the frame, Orlando Cabrera doubled to center to score Shin-Soo Choo from first, but Cabrera was then picked off at second to end the rally and leave the Rays’ lead at three.

Chad Durbin, who had come on with two outs in the sixth, pitched a scoreless seventh, and Rafael Perez shut the Rays down in the eighth, and in the bottom of the eighth the Tribe crept closer when Asdrubal Cabrera tripled with one out and scored on a ground out from Choo, drawing the Indians to within two and at least giving hope for a ninth-inning rally.

That rally, in fact, did happen, but unfortunately, the Rays added insurance in the top of the ninth.

Rafael Perez was still in the game when Ben Zobrist reached on a bunt single and Johnny Damon blooped a single to left-center, with Zobrist stopping at second.

On came Joe Smith, and Carlos Santana let a pitch get by for a passed ball, moving the runners to second and third. Then Longoria doubled home Zobrist and Damon, and although Smith was able to put out the fire, the damage was done and the Rays led 7-3.

In the bottom of the ninth the Indians, with one out, got a double from Orlando Cabrera off of Kyle Farnsworth, and Shelley Duncan scored Cabrera with a single to draw to within three, but Matt LaPorta flied out and Hannahan grounded out to end it.

Masterson went 5 2/3 innings and gave up five runs on eight hits, walking four and fanning six, in his first really shaky effort of the season.

It happens. Now let’s hope Masterson can bounce back in his next start in either Kansas City or Chicago next week.

With the win, the Rays move into at least temporary possession of first place in the East. Should the Royals beat the Yankees tonight Tampa Bay will enter the weekend atop that tough division.

Quite an accomplishment for a team that lost their first six games of the season and started 1-8. But a 21-7 record since then has earned them the spot.

As for the Indians, all that is left is to regroup and get ready for the Seattle Mariners, who come to town on Friday night for the first of three games.

The Indians swept the Mariners in Seattle in April. If they could duplicate that in Cleveland, the bad taste from the last two games will be washed away.

Go Tribe!


Yet Another Tough Pitching Match-Up As Series With Rays Concludes With A Thursday Matinee

Okay, now everyone can hopefully relax and get back to normal. There has to be a bit of pressure as any streak reaches epic proportions, and when that streak is ended, even if ended with a loss, there has to be some relief.

The Indians’ 14-game home winning streak ended on Wednesday night, and now today’s 12:05 game with the Tampa Bay Rays becomes just another home game, and a chance to win a series and move on to the next series.

Justin Masterson will try for the third time today to win his sixth game, although he might well be 7-0 right now with more offensive support. In Masterson’s last two starts — both no-decisions — he has worked 14 innings and allowed only three earned runs, but has nothing to show for it besides a team win and a team loss.

Masterson (5-0, 2.11 ERA) will be making his 10th career appearance and sixth start against the Rays. He has not had much success in going 1-4 with a 6.00 ERA against Tampa Bay in 33 career innings.

Masterson will be facing somewhat of a mirror today — a pitcher that has had a terrific start to 2011 but that hasn’t had much success against his Thursday opponent.

James Shields will make his seventh career start against the Tribe, and has yet to beat The Good Guys. Shields is 0-4 with a 4.06 ERA in 37 1/3 innings versus Cleveland, but, as with Masterson, that is only half the story.

Shields (3-1, 2.01 ERA) has been very impressive this season. Shields has worked 53 2/3 innings and has fanned 44 while walking 12, and since April 8 has not worked less than seven innings or given up more than two runs in any of his five starts in that span.

Cumulatively, in his last five starts, Shields is 3-0 with a 1.12 ERA over 40 1/3 innings.

The Indians may be without Grady Sizemore for a second straight game. Sizemore dinged up a knee sliding into second on Tuesday and had an MRI yesterday which showed a bruise but no other damage, but Manny Acta may not throw Sizemore right back into the lineup against the right-handed Shields.

Although as lifeless as the offense looked last night against David Price, the Indians can use all the help they can get.

After today’s game, the Tribe will welcome the Seattle Mariners to town for a three-game weekend series. Cleveland swept the Mariners in Seattle earlier this season.


Indians Vs. Rays Final: The Home Winning Streak Ends Resoundingly; Tampa Bay Rolls 8-2

I hate to say that I saw this coming, but — I saw this coming. But truly, isn’t it better to get blown out, to just tip your cap to the other team and get back up and do it tomorrow than it would be to agonize over a one-run loss?

I think if we had to lose tonight, that losing the way we did was the best way to go.

The Tampa Bay Rays jumped in front early tonight and, with David Price on the hill, never looked back as the Rays ended the Indians’ 14-game home winning streak emphatically with a

Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco, who had not pitched in a big-league game since April 24, gave it a good effort tonight, but Price was just too good. He was “this guy was my pre-season Cy Young winner” good.

Carrasco was touched for a run in the second, when, with two outs, Sam Fuld doubled to score Reid Brignac to make it 1-0.

In the fourth Tampa Bay added three more runs to make it 4-0 and to make any hopes of a comeback look bleak. After B.J.Upton scored on a fielder’s choice, Fuld drove in his second run of the night with a single, scoring Casey Kotchman. Ben Zobrist drove home John Jaso with the third run of the frame with a sac fly.

Meanwhile, the Indians got their first hit — and base-runner — of the game when Carlos Santana doubled leading off the fourth, but Carlos was stranded there when Price retired Shelley Duncan, Orlando Cabrera and Matt LaPorta in order.

Carrasco lasted five innings, tossing 100 pitches on his way to allowing four runs on six hits, with three walks and two strikeouts. The loss drops Carrasco to 1-2 and his ERA climbs to 5.29.

Justin Germano relieved in the sixth and tossed a perfect frame before getting in trouble in the seventh. In that frame, Zobrist homered to right, and Upton drove in Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce with a double to make it 7-0.

The Indians wasted another leadoff double in the seventh when Asdrubal Cabrera reached, and eventually moved to third but no further when Shin-Soo Choo, Santana and Duncan all were retired by Price.

The Rays put two aboard in the eighth, but Chad Durbin came on and was able to end the inning with no runs scoring for Tampa Bay.

The Indians finally broke through in the bottom of the eighth, getting on the board on consecutive leadoff doubles from Orlando Cabrera and LaPorta to end the shutout bid for Price. With two outs Michael Brantley plated the Tribe’s second run with a single to center, leaving Cleveland down by five at 7-2.

Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out to end the frame, but at least there would be no zero on the board for the Indians at the end of this game.

Matt Joyce took Durbin deep to lead off the ninth, putting the Rays up 8-2. Later, Carlos Santana took a foul ball off his throwing hand and it did not look good for a moment, but Carlos shook it off, so let’s hope that doesn’t end up worse tomorrow.

Price (5-3, 3.12 ERA) left after eight innings, surrendering two runs on only five hits, with seven K’s and no walks. He was relieved by Rob Delaney, appearing in only his third major league game, and second this year.

Santana drew a one-out walk in the ninth, but that was all she wrote for the Tribe on this night, as Cleveland dropped to 23-12, with the Indians’ lead dropping to 4/12 games over Detroit, with Kansas City still playing in New York.

The series wraps up on Thursday at 12:05 with Tampa Bay’s James Shields opposing the Indians’ Justin Masterson, who will try again to move to 6-0.


Carlos Carrasco Expected To Start Wednesday Night Against Rays' Ace David Price

Carlos Carrasco, who has not pitched in the bigs since April 24, is expected to make the start tonight as the Indians go for 15 in a row at home.

It won’t be easy, though, as Tampa Bay sends their ace David Price to the hill in a 7:05 game.

Price beat the Indians at Progressive Field last July to end Tampa Bay’s 18-game skid in Cleveland. Price (4-3, 3.26 ERA) is coming off of a win over Toronto in his last start. In that one, Price allowed only an unearned run in 8 2/3 innings, walking none and fanning ten in a 3-1 Rays win.

Against Cleveland in his career, Price is 2-0 in three starts, with a 2.76 ERA over 16 1/3 innings pitched.

Price has a fine career record of 33-16, with a 3.30 ERA in 400+ innings of work over three seasons.

Carrasco (1-1, 4.97 ERA) has never faced the Rays. He also was the losing pitcher in the last game the Tribe lost at home, back on April 2 against the White Sox. This will be Carrasco’s first appearance at Progressive Field since that start.

The Indians will have to do a better job with runners in scoring position than they did last night, when they were fortunate to eke out a 5-4 win on a walk-off free pass from Kyle Farnsworth to Michael Brantley to end it.

In last night’s contest the Indians were only 1-for-14 with runners in position to score, and the Tribe left 13 on base (although in fairness, the bases remaining loaded in the ninth added three runners to that total which were moot after the game-ending walk).

Grady Sizemore blasted his sixth homer of the season last night while Brantley delivered his second — both of which gave Cleveland one-run leads. But with the tough lefty Price on the hill, some production will be necessary from the right-hand batters’ box.

The Indians have a 5 1/2 game lead on both Kansas City and Detroit, with the Royals being percentage points ahead of the heating-up Tigers.

This series will end with a 12:05 game on Thursday afternoon, so — hopefully — the weather will not be a problem again tonight, as it was last night when lightning in the area pushed the start of the game back an hour and a half.


Indians Vs. Rays Final: Indians 'Walk'-Off To Defeat Rays 5-4; AL Central Lead Now 5 1/2 Games

Maybe the weather gods were confused, or needed their GPS’s calibrated. Or maybe it was the name of the opponent that set up a delicious little irony last night.

In a game delayed by lightning (as the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning ready for their conference finals) for over an hour and a half, the Cleveland Indians saw a night of frustration, with several squandered scoring chances, end happily when Michael Brantley walked with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth to give Cleveland a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, for the Tribe's 14th win in a row at home.

The win snaps the Rays’ eight game road winning streak.

The Indians wasted no time once the game started, as Grady Sizemore homered leading off the bottom of the first — round-tripper number six for Grady. But in a harbinger of what would occur later, after the next two hitters singled, Carlos Santana grounded into a double play, and after a walk, Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnanstine was able to get out of the inning with just the one run scoring.

It stayed 1-0 until the fourth, when the Rays’ Matt Joyce went deep against Indians’ starter Josh Tomlin to tie the game.

But in the bottom of the fourth Brantley put the Tribe right back on top with a drive to right and it was 2-1 Cleveland.

In the fifth, the Indians got a runner to third with one out after a single, a stolen base, and a ground out, but could not capitalize as Santana grounded out with the runner holding, and Travis Hafner fanned.

Tampa Bay took immediate advantage in the sixth when Joyce collected his second RBI of the night with a double, scoring Ben Zobrist. Tomlin worked out of any further trouble after Joyce made it to third, and once again the game was tied, this time at 2-2.

In the Indians’ sixth, Asdrubal Cabrera beat out an infield hit with the bases loaded, scoring Matt LaPorta and giving Cleveland their third lead of the night. And when Jack Hannahan scored on a passed ball, the Tribe found themselves up 4-2 headed for the seventh.

Sean Rodriquez doubled leading off the Rays’ seventh and that was all for Tomlin, who again pitched well enough to win — and again, didn’t win.

Tony Sipp came on and — with one out — ex-Indian Kelly Shoppach moved Tampa Bay to within a run with a single, making it 4-3.

Sipp stranded Shoppach at second, so Tomlin was still in line for the win.

The Tribe put two aboard with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but a Brantley double-play grounder squelched that rally, and the Rays once again took immediate advantage.

Vinnie Pestano took over for Sipp to start the eighth and Evan Longaria greeted Pestano with a homer to tie the game at 4-4.

Then in the bottom of the eighth, the Indians again got a runner to third base with one out, and again were unable to bring him home, when LaPorta’s leadoff double was wasted on consecutive ground outs by Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Chris Perez came on in the ninth, and stranded Johnny Damon (who had walked) at third, to set up the winning rally for the Tribe.

Shin-Soo Choo walked against Joel Peralta leading off, and this time, Carlos Santana came through, delivering a single to send Choo to third.

The Rays intentionally walked Travis Hafner to load the bases with nobody out, and got what they needed when Orlando Cabrera grounded into a force at home against the drawn-in infield for the first out.

But Brantley got the biggest “hit” of the night without ever having to put the ball in play when he drew the walk off of Kyle Farnsworth, and the Indians had moved to 23-11 and extended their lead to 5 1/2 games over the Royals and the Tigers.

Chris Perez takes the win to move to 2-1, while Peralta drops to 1-2 with the loss.

The Indians seem to have magic at home. In a game wherein you strand 13 runners, usually it comes back to haunt you, and though it almost did, The Good Guys prevailed, and will now do it again on Wednesday night.

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