Game 16: Blue Jay 3, Indians 2
Justin Masterson looked much better tonight, and although that's promising, that good outing didn't lead to a Tribe victory. Masterson struck out nine (a season high) and allowed six hits in 6.1 innings, but the runner he left on base as left the game in the sixth inning came around to score, and so he ended the evening with a rather disappointing no-decision. Justin's wipeout slider was the driving force behind many of the strikeouts, leaving many right-handed hitters with no chance after he got two strikes on them. Masterson essentially is a two-pitch pitcher, and although a limited repertoire from a starter tends to catch up to him eventually, Masterson has so much movement on those two pitches that batters can't square up on them even if they know it's coming.
After Masterson walked Ryan Goins on five pitches in the seventh, manager Terry Francona pulled him from the game, and tried to capitalize on a seemingly favorable matchup by bringing in Marc Rzepczynski to turn Melky Cabrera around and to face left-handed hitting Munenori Kawasaki. But it all backfired, as Cabrera lined a single to center, and Kawasaki drove a single up the middle on the first pitch he saw. Kawasaki's single drove home the tying run, and drove Scrabble out of the game.
Cody Allen, who normally pitches the eighth, was brought in to try to keep it a tie game. Toronto now had runners at first and second with one out, but they moved up a base when Yan Gomes made a poor pickoff attempt at first. That led Francona to order an intentional walk to Jose Bautista, loading the bases for Edwin Encarnacion. The Toronto first baseman got on top of an upper-90s Allen fastball and singled in the go-ahead run. Allen would not allow any further damage, but unfortunately the damage already done was enough to cost the Indians the game.
Last night the Toronto bullpen imploded in Minnesota, allowing six runs in the eighth inning on just hit because three Toronto relievers walked eight and uncorked three wild pitches. Two of those pitchers would pitch tonight after the Jays took the lead, and in each case they would make amends. Steve Delabar, who started the mess last night, allowed a walk and a hit but got Michael Brantley to ground out to end a threat in the seventh inning. And closer Sergio Santos, who threw three wild pitches and walked three, would somehow hold the Indians scoreless in the ninth. Lonnie Chisenhall, who up until the ninth had been quiet, doubled over the left fielder's head to lead off the inning. But Michael Bourn then had a terrible at-bat, first missing on two bunt attempts and then feebly whiffing on a Santos off-speed pitch. Nick Swisher was next, and he too struck out, taking a borderline slider for strike three.
Two years ago, Santos was blowing batters away with an upper-90s fastball. But tonight he seemed a completely different pitching, relying mostly on his slider and changeup. And when he did throw his fastball, it registered only in the low 90s. The Indians who came up to bat after Swisher struck caught on to this, and laid off the offspeed stuff. Jason Kipnis, who fell behind 0-2, worked a walk, and Carlos Santana, whose two-run homer was the Tribe's offense tonight, also worked a walk. That brought Michael Brantley to the plate with the bases loaded, and Brantley is exactly the kind of hitter you want at the plate when all you need is a single. Brantley hit the ball hard, but right at first baseman Encarnacion, who knocked the ball down with the body and ran to the back himself to end the game.