The Indians took the field this evening against the Yankees knowing that the Tigers had already beaten the Los Angeles Angels. and that they would thus have to win to retain their one and a half game lead. Nine innings and two brilliant pitching performances (and a rookie's first Major League homer) later, and the Tribe had beaten New York 5-3
There might not have been a sense of urgency, but in the bottom of the first, after Justin Masterson (7-6, 2.66 ERA) shut down New York in the top half, the Tribe immediately started putting pressure on Yankees’ starter Phil Hughes (0-2, 10.57 ERA).
Michael Brantley walked and Asdrubal Cabrera singled, putting runners on first and second, and Travis Hafner recorded an RBI with a single to shallow left, giving the Indians a quick 1-0 lead. Carlos Santana struck out swinging for the first out, but Cabrera and Hafner moved up a base on a wild pitch, and Cabrera scored when catcher Russell Martin threw wildly to third, to make it 2-0.
But it was a good start for a team that did not score on Tuesday until the ninth inning.
Alex Rodriguez singled to lead off the New York second and Robinson Cano reached on a fielding error by A. Cabrera when Cano's grounder popped out of his glove.. Masterson got Nick Swisher to ground out to newly-activated first baseman Matt LaPorta, with both runners moving up, and then Masterson fanned Jorge Posada for the second out. Then Martin grounded out to first, and Masterson had escaped the jam.
Take note, Carlos Carrasco. That is how you do it when your defense makes an error.
LaPorta celebrated his return to the lineup with a single leading off the Tribe second, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Austin Kearns. But Brantley popped out and A. Cabrera grounded out to end the threat.
Hafner collected his second straight hit leading off the Indians’ third, but was stranded at first as the next three hitters were retired by Hughes, who seemed to be settling in in his first action since April.
Masterson struck out Mark Teixeira, A-Rod and Cano in order in the fourth to run his total to five Ks as the game emphatically was being taken over by the pitchers.
LaPorta collected his second hit with one out in the Cleveland fourth but was erased on a force-out from Kearns. Brantley popped out to send the game to the fifth with the score still 2-0, Indians.
Martin singled with two outs in the fifth for just the second hit of the game for the Yankees, but Brett Gardner grounded out to end the frame, after Sizemore had made a leaping catch against the wall in right-center earlier in the inning to rob Swisher.
Asdrubal Cabrera was hit by a pitch to start the Tribe fifth. After Hafner was caught looking at strike three, Santana walked to put two aboard. Sizemore flied out for out number two, but Orlando Cabrera was also hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Chisenhall.
Chisenhall unfortunately flied out, stranding three, but still the Tribe led after five by a pair of runs.
Derek Jeter led off the New York sixth with a walk, but Masterson dodged a bullet when Curtis Granderson flied out to deep center. Teixeira lined out to left and A-Rod grounded out, and Masterson had tidily worked out of any potential trouble.
Luis Ayala came on for New York in the bottom of the sixth, and after one was out, Kearns singled to left, and Brantley followed with a single to right, moving Kearns to third. Brantley stole second while A. Cabrera battled Ayala for eight pitches, but Ayala won that battle when Droobs flied out to shallow left for a huge out for the Yankees.
Lefty Boone Logan came in to face Hafner, and hit Hafner with a pitch — the third time tonight that an Indian had been plunked. Thus, for the second inning in a row, the Tribe had the bases loaded with two outs.
And for the second inning in a row Cleveland failed to add to their lead, as Santana, with a 3-1 count, hit a hot shot to third that was fielded by a diving A-Rod, who threw Carlos out at first.
After six innings, the Indians had left 11 men on base. Against the Yankees, that is playing with fire.
Swisher walked with one out in the seventh as Masterson approached 100 pitches. Justin got Posada to fly out to center for the second out, and reached the century mark in pitches while retiring Martin on a grounder.
Logan retired the first two Indians quickly in the seventh, but then Chisenhall belted his first career homer on a drive to right-center — more than making up for leaving the bases loaded in the fifth — and the Tribe’s lead had stretched to 3-0.
Sergio Mitre came on for the Yankees to replace Logan and retired LaPorta, but the insurance run looked mighty good.
Masterson came back out for the eighth, and retired Gardner before giving up a double to Jeter for the New York icon’s 2,997th career hit.
Granderson grounded out, moving Jeter to third, and Masterson got Teixeira to also ground out, completing his eighth scoreless inning of the night. But at 112 pitches, you had to wonder if Manny Acta would allow Masterson to try for the shutout. The answer to that question turned out to be "no".
Over his last three games, covering 22.2 innings, Masterson has allowed exactly one earned run. That, folks, translates to a 0.40 ERA over that span.
Mitre walked Kearns leading off the eighth, and Brantley singled Kearns to second. Asdrubal Cabrera fanned for the first out, but Hafner walked, and lo and behold, the Indians had loaded the bases yet again, with Cord Phelps coming on to run for Hafner.
This time the Indians scored with the sacks juiced, thanks to Mitre, who walked Santana to make it 4-0. Then Sizemore plated Brantley with a sacrifice fly, and the Tribe had major breathing room at 5-0 (they would need it, as it turned out). O-Cab grounded out to end the inning (and to increase the Indians’ left on base total to 13), and we headed to the ninth.
Vinnie Pestano came on to relieve Masterson and gave up consecutive singles to Rodriguez and Cano to start the frame. Then Swisher doubled to left and suddenly it was 5-1, runners were at second and third and it was nervous time at Progressive Field.
Chris Perez came on in what was suddenly a save situation, with the tying run on-deck.
Perez got Posada to ground out, scoring Cano, and induced Martin to ground out as well, scoring Swisher, making the score 5-3 but leaving the bases empty with two outs.
Perez finished by striking out Gardner to earn his 21st save of the year (and to take Pestano off a very nervous hook), and the Indians had won two-of-three for the third series in a row, and maintained their 1.5 game lead over Detroit.
Next up are the Toronto Blue Jays, who come to town on Thursday night to start a four-game set leading up to the All-Star break.