Masterson's strong outing helps Tribe end slide

Masterson's strong outing helps Tribe end slide

Masterson's strong outing helps Tribe end slide
CLEVELAND -- It's over. It's finally over. Dance in the streets, folks. Uncover your children's eyes. Wash that lucky shirt that has been worn daily for almost two weeks now and take a deep breath.

The Indians won a ballgame again.

The misery came to an end on Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field, where Justin Masterson spun a gem en route to a 6-2 victory over the Twins. There is no denying the damage done by Cleveland's 11-game losing streak, but there is solace to be had in its conclusion.

"I'm sure it was a relief in all of Cleveland," Masterson said.

One of the worst slumps in franchise history is now precisely that -- history.

It fell one loss short of equaling the 12-game drought in 1931 that is recognized as the longest losing streak in Cleveland's 112 years of record keeping. Only twice previously (first in '28 and again in 2009) had an Indians squad compiled a skid consisting of 11 consecutive defeats.

There were balls lost in the sky, one through the legs, plenty of baserunning blunders to go along with fielding misfortunes and offensive offense. And there were pitching problems, the kind that forced the club to turn the roster upside down and inside out in search of some semblance of a solution.

The Indians went 10 games without a quality start, the rotation posted a 10.44 ERA over 11 games, and All-Star closer Chris Perez blew a pair of saves in dramatic, gasp-inducing fashion.

And now, it's over.

"I've never seen anything like this before," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "And I hope I never see it again. I lost 11 in a row before in a rebuilding process in D.C., but I'd just never seen it the way it went here."

Cleveland's problems spread throughout the entire roster.

"Kind of like a disease, like a virus," setup man Vinnie Pestano said. "Sometimes you can't sweat it out -- just gotta battle through it. That's what we did, and we were able to lock it down today."

Acta said he tried everything from mixing up the batting order to rotating between different undershirts and shoes on a daily basis. The manager did all he could to maintain a calm demeanor around the clubhouse, but he did reveal that the ballclub had a team meeting last week during which grievances were aired.

"We did have our big-time yelling and screaming," Acta said, "with a few words that can't be said here or printed in your newspapers. But you know what happened after that? We dropped five more in a row."

The consequence of it all was a catastrophic collapse in the American League Central. On July 26, when Cleveland won its most recent game before Wednesday, the Tribe was 3 1/2 games out of first place. Twelve days and 11 losses later, the Indians were positioned closer to the cellar than to second place.

That is where things sit in the present, but at least The Streak is now in the past.

Despite the slide, Shin-Soo Choo said the team's goals have not changed.

"I know we had an 11-game losing streak and we have a long way to go," Choo said, "but baseball's never over. Look at the Cardinals last year. A lot can happen in baseball. We showed that in the last 11 games."

Masterson, who gave up 17 runs combined in losses No. 2 and No. 7 within the Tribe's 11-game slide, held Minnesota to two runs over seven innings this time around. The big sinkerballer flinched briefly in the fifth inning, but he went on to tame the Twins, retiring the final nine he faced with six groundouts and three strikeouts.

Masterson racked up seven punchouts against four walks on the afternoon.

"I was a hair selfish," said the pitcher. "I wanted to go out there and just do it no matter what [the score] was. I was going to try to keep them to as few runs as I could."

Minnesota did enjoy one quick breakthrough in the fifth, when Masterson issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Alexi Casilla, who had a run of 385 plate appearances without a home run that spanned to last June, followed by lacing an offering from the righty into the right-field stands for a two-run home run.

That was a mere blip within Masterson's outing, which bought time for the Tribe's bats to offer some support.

In the first inning, Choo doubled home a run against lefty Brian Duensing and Carlos Santana followed with a run-scoring single. Asdrubal Cabrera and Choo teamed for back-to-back RBI singles in the second, helping Cleveland to a four-run lead.

Lady Luck lent a helping hand in the sixth.

Shelley Duncan sent a towering fly ball to shallow right field, where Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka stared into the sky helplessly. After throwing up his arms in frustration, Nishioka strolled away as the baseball dropped to the grass. Duncan was gifted with a double and Cleveland took advantage by later tacking on two runs.

Masterson and the Tribe's bullpen saw to it that a four-run lead proved sufficient.

"Pitching sets the tone," Acta said. "Pitching got us into this mess and pitching got us out of it."

At 2:33 p.m. ET, Dozier chopped a pitch from Indians reliever Esmil Rogers to the left side of the diamond, where third baseman Brent Lillibridge gloved the ball with a slick play. Lillibridge cocked his arm, fired to second baseman Jason Kipnis and created the 27th out of the ballgame.

Cleveland's 11-game run of despair disappeared.

"It was like all the stress came off," Choo said with a smile.

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.