Masterson brilliant as Indians edge Blue Jays

Masterson brilliant as Indians edge Blue Jays

Masterson brilliant as Indians edge Blue Jays
TORONTO -- Justin Masterson turned in one of his best efforts of the season when he dominated the Blue Jays on Opening Day, only to walk away with a no-decision.

On Friday -- his first time facing Toronto since then -- Masterson, and his closer, made sure the outcome was different.

Masterson got his revenge by blanking the Blue Jays, and got some help from Travis Hafner early, as the Indians beat Toronto, 1-0, at Rogers Centre to kick off the season's second half in front of 32,308.

"Excellent pitching performance, Masterson was impressive," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He established his fastball the whole game, was able to throw it to both sides of the plate. He also had a pretty good slider and a pretty good idea of when to add and subtract to his sinker.

"I thought that he did a magnificent job."

Coming off his second-shortest outing of the season in his last start before the All-Star break, Masterson had no problem putting away Toronto hitters early and often.

Masterson faced the minimum number of batters through the first four innings, thanks to a pair of double plays from his defense and by working ahead in the count.

He continued to do so all game, and kept the ball on the ground, something he has routinely done throughout the season. Masterson, who uses a sinking fastball and slider combination, is one of the most extreme ground-ball pitchers in the game, and he showed his ability to keep the ball down in the zone against Toronto.

Masterson recorded 11 groundouts to just one fly-ball out, and allowed only three Blue Jays to reach scoring position over his seven innings. He faced more than four batters in an inning just once.

He knew exactly what to look for from Toronto's hitters his second time facing them this season, after striking out 10 while allowing one run on two hits on Opening Day.

"I feel like I remember roughly what everyone had done to me, or what they did for the most part, so it's just kind of thinking back," said Masterson, who said he watched a little bit of video from that outing. "Then, when they hit the box, you kind of remember what your mindset was when they came in. You take a look at it, but they are making adjustments, so you have to be keen on those."

It was Masterson's second start this season in which he allowed no runs, and the fifth in his past seven going at least seven innings. He surrendered five hits over seven innings with five strikeouts, and improved to 6-8 on the season.

Although he came away victorious, it was the 12th time in Masterson's past 15 starts that he received two runs of support or less, and the sixth with one or less.

Masterson gave way to Vinnie Pestano, who worked a clean eighth, before the Indians turned it over to closer Chris Perez, who collected his 25th save by retiring the heart of the Blue Jays' order: Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

Perez blew his last save opportunity, as well as the Opening Day, extra-inning defeat to Toronto, which cost Masterson the win.

Perez was excited to get back on the mound and secure the win for Masterson this time around.

"I was sharp tonight for sure, the slider was coming out good," Perez said. "It doesn't matter who you are facing ... you just have to get outs."

His manager was impressed with his outing as well, which consisted of a flyout and groundout, before striking out Rasmus to end the game.

"He was pretty impressive," Acta said. "That is what he does, he has that type of mentality. He is not going to back down, he is not afraid."

The game's only run came in the second inning, as Hafner led off with a towering shot to right field off Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero on an 0-1 count for his eighth homer of the season.

"It was high and just kept on going," Masterson said. "It was pretty impressive. He's a big boy. He couldn't wait for the All-Star break to end so he could get back out here."

Romero went toe-to-toe with Masterson for much of the evening, but was forced to depart after six innings due to a high pitch count. The left-hander, who dropped to 8-5 on the season, lasted six innings, allowing six hits, while walking two and striking out six.

"One bad pitch -- just hung a curveball to Hafner and he took advantage of it," Romero said. "Nothing I can do there, felt like I got out of some good jams. Made some good pitches all night."

Michael Brantley went 3-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, with all three hits coming against Romero. Brantley has got off to a hot start this month, as the left-handed hitter is batting .419 over 31 at-bats, with five extra-base hits.

It was Cleveland's first 1-0 road win -- with the only run coming courtesy of a solo homer -- since May 26, 1992, against Oakland. Mark Lewis homered that game.

The Indians have won seven of their past 10 games and improved to 21-8 in series openers this season.

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.