Tribe can't overcome Masterson's rocky start

Tribe can't overcome Masterson's rocky start

Tribe can't overcome Masterson's rocky start
CLEVELAND -- For the first two innings on Tuesday night, Justin Masterson lacked the typical life on his signature sinker. Over the remainder of the evening, the Indians were lifeless on the field and in the dugout.

Cleveland manager Manny Acta did not mince words following an 8-2 loss to the Royals.

"That had to be the most boring game I've ever been a part of," Acta said. "Everything happened in the first two innings. It was just pathetic. The second inning just pretty much sucked the energy out of everybody. It was a deep hole and we couldn't get out of it."

One side effect of the loss -- Cleveland's fourth in the past five games -- was a drop to second place behind the White Sox in the American League Central. It marks the first time since April 24 that the Indians do not have at least a share of first place in the division, snapping a run of 35 consecutive days on top.

The primary problem in the latest setback for the Indians (27-22) was another inconsistent performance from Masterson. The big sinkerballer labored through the first two frames, giving up seven runs in that short span, before settling in and finding his rhythm the rest of the way.

By then, however, a win proved too far from the Tribe's reach.

"He was just trying to battle through some adjustments out there early," Indians catcher Luke Carlin said. "After those first two innings, he was cruising. He made some good adjustments late, and I think that he took some positives out of that as well. He still continued to pitch, so that was huge for us.

"If you forget the first two innings, he did a good job."

There are a handful of big innings that Masterson (2-4, 5.14 ERA) would like to forget this season.

In his three poorest starts, Masterson has posted a 12.06 ERA across 15 2/3 innings. In the other 52 2/3 innings logged by the right-hander this year, he has fashioned a respectable 3.08 ERA. Within each of the three subpar showings, Masterson has suffered through one inning with at least four runs allowed.

To put that another way, Masterson has allowed 36 percent (14 out of 39) of his earned runs in just four percent (three out of 68 1/3 innings) of his frames.

"It's always one inning," Masterson said. "When I do struggle, it typically is one inning. It really was that second inning that was bigger than anything."

Mike Moustakas launched a two-run home run off Masterson in the first inning -- marking the eighth blast of the year for the Kansas City third baseman -- and the Royals added five runs in the second. Moustakas capped off that four-hit outburst with a two-run single that pushed the Royals to a 7-2 advantage.

Kansas City (20-28) tacked on another run in the sixth inning, when Jarrod Dyson singled, stole second base and crossed home plate on an RBI single from Humberto Quintero. Overall, Masterson was charged with eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits, ending with eight strikeouts and no walks in an 111-pitch effort.

"I'm glad he settled down, because it could've gotten ugly," Acta said. "But he pitched pretty well at the end. Unfortunately, it was too late for us. He started the season shaky and then he put a few good starts in order. The last one [on Thursday] was very good here against [the Tigers' Justin] Verlander.

"We just need those guys [in the rotation] to have some consistency if we're going to continue to be fighting until the end. We need those starters."

Cleveland struck for a pair of runs off Royals starter Will Smith (1-1) in the first inning, but the southpaw quieted the Tribe's bats for the rest of his six-inning performance. In the opening frame, Jose Lopez put the Indians on the board with an RBI single and Michael Brantley followed with a run-scoring fielder's choice groundout.

It marked the first Major League victory for Smith.

"Getting the first win in the big leagues was just an awesome feeling," Smith said. "I was trying to be too fine in the first inning. I was trying to be too perfect, instead of trusting my stuff and getting people out."

With the loss, the Indians dropped to 4-10 against left-handed starters this season.

Asked what made Smith so effective, Acta smirked.

"He throws from the left side. That helps against us," Acta said. "And, he had a good breaking ball. He has a good overhand curve and he threw some good sliders. His changeup was also good against our right-handers."

Over the final 21 batters of the game, Cleveland managed just one hit.

The Indians went flat on the field, and that did not please Acta.

"I just felt all the energy got sucked out of us in the second inning," said the manager. "That's not very good. You've got a lot of games to play still. Even the crowd. The whole place was like dead after that inning. I'm saying it's not because we lost.

"It's just everything happened in the first two innings and it was just dead after that."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.