Justin Masterson turned in a solid outing for the second straight start and the Indians blasted their way to a 7-5 win over the White Sox Thursday night to gave the Tribe (13-10) a solid series win over division-rival Chicago (12-13) and extend Cleveland’s lead in the AL Central.
Masterson pitched great and it looks like he may have finally put his early season struggles behind him. He threw 6.1 strong innings, holding the White Sox to three runs on eight hits with three walks and six strikeouts en route to his first win of the season. By no means was it a dominating performance like his Opening Day outing, but he was effective. The White Sox were bewildered for the better part of five innings before they were able to get anything going.
By contrast, the Indians got off to a good start and never really looked back. With two out in the top of the second, Michael Brantley singled off the throwing hand of Chicago starter John Danks and reached second on an errant underhanded throw. Casey Kotchman followed two pitches later with a weak single up the middle that plated Brantley and gave the Indians to a 1-0 lead.
Johnny Damon made his presence felt in the top of the third with a leadoff double down the right field line. Not to be outdone, Jason Kipnis tripled to deep center to score Damon. Asdrubal Cabrera singled home Kipnis to push the lead to 3-0 heading into the bottom of the third. He would go on to hit a solo shot in the sixth inning.
The big blow would ultimately come in the top of the seventh. With the Indians clinging to a 4-3 lead, Kipnis stepped to the plate with two on and two out against Danks. After working the count to 3-1, he sent a screaming line drive over the fence in right field. The home run (his fourth of the season) put the Indians up 7-3 and was all the insurance they would need to seal the deal.
The bullpen was also effective once again, picking up the final 2.2 innings for Masterson. Tony Sipp and Joe Smith combined to throw 1.2 innings of scoreless relief to get the game into the ninth inning. It wasn’t until that point when things got interesting. With Cleveland up 7-3, Manny Acta called upon Dan Wheeler to get the final three outs of a non-save situation. He recorded only one out before serving up a two-run Adam Dunn home run. Chris Perez came in to close the door and earn his eighth save save of the season— tied him for the American League lead—as the Indians won, 7-5.
The Good: Jason Kipnis. He’s been on an absolute tear over the past two weeks. After last night’s 2-for-3 performance, Kipnis is hitting .367 (18-for-49) with an OPS quickly approaching .900 over the past two weeks; he also has two triples, a home run, nine RBI, eight runs scored, and four stolen bases in that span. To say Kipnis is on fire now would be an understatement. Let’s just hope he can keep things going.
Also, kudos to Justin Masterson. It’s starting to look like he’s figured things out. Turns out moving from the third base side to the first base side of the rubber really did the trick. Now if the Indians could just get Ubaldo Jimenez straightened out…
The Bad: Dan Wheeler is going to start giving Tribe fans ulcers, plain and simple. He’s been somewhat shaky in the early goings of the season and Thursday’s third of an inning won’t instill much confidence. He appears to be the one member of the bullpen who isn’t locked in right now. The Indians were expecting him to be a key piece to help take pressure off of the likes of Smith, Sipp, and Rafael Perez in the late innings, but so far the results can’t be what they expected.
The “Huh?”: I don’t understand why Manny Acta chose to play Shin-Soo Choo last night. Yes, I understand Choo is coming back from an injury and needs to get at-bats if he’s ever going to shake the rust off. However, last night the Indians were playing in a cold, wet, slippery setting after a rainy week in Chicago. That’s not a good combo for someone coming off a hamstring injury.
Throw in the fact that the Indians were facing a tough lefty in John Danks, and why not play Aaron Cunningham to finish the series and then bring Choo back for the Rangers? I understand not wanting to kill Choo’s confidence by benching him after he went hitless in his first game back, but it would have been understandable given the circumstances of the situation.