Justin Masterson aims to rebound from his shortest outing of the season on Friday night when the Cleveland Indians open up a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics in a battle of second-place clubs.
Masterson logged just 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision versus the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday. He gave up five runs -- four earned -- on seven hits and four walks, striking out five. It marked the second time in Masterson's last seven starts, since a six-hit shutout of the Chicago White Sox on June 30, that he failed to make it out of the fifth inning.
The 28-year-old righty is 13-8 with a 3.59 earned run average in 25 starts this season and holds a career record of 2-5 with a 7.42 ERA in 11 meetings with Oakland, including seven starts.
Masterson did improve on those numbers a bit with a win over the A's on May 8, giving up three runs over seven innings and striking out seven.
Oakland's A.J. Griffin, who starts tonight, was able to keep the ball in the yard last time out, but did not get a decision at Toronto on Sunday. The righty allowed three runs, just two earned, but had to deal with five hits allowed as well as a career-high six walks.
"I couldn't find my release point really and just tried to battle through," said Griffin on Oakland's website. "The offense did a good job picking me up there."
Griffin, though, did not allow a home run for the first time in five starts, having been tagged for 10 over his previous four. He has given up 28 homers over 24 starts this year, going 10-8 with a 3.88 ERA.
The 25-year-old lost at Cleveland on May 8, yielding four runs -- three earned -- over 6 2/3 innings. That included giving up home runs to Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher.
The Indians come into this series 6 1/2 games back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, while the Athletics are trying to overcome a 1 1/2-game deficit to the Texas Rangers for the top spot in the AL West.
Cleveland has won three of its last four since a six-game slide and took the rubber match of a three-game set with Minnesota 9-8 on Wednesday in 12 innings.
It was quite a roller coaster for the Tribe, who used a four-run eighth inning to tie the game. Michael Brantley singled home a run in the frame before Jason Giambi followed with a three-run homer.
Santana then hit a solo homer in the top of the 10th, but Minnesota answered in the bottom of the frame with a solo homer off the bat of Joe Mauer.
Cleveland finally finished things off in less-thrilling fashion, getting a sac fly from Brantley in the 12th inning before Joe Smith retired the Twins in order for his second save of the campaign.
"Keep winning series. I think the biggest thing is win game by game and hopefully the series will pile up," said Mike Aviles, who had a pair of hits and two RBI for Cleveland.
Oakland is coming off Thursday's 5-0 victory over Houston, salvaging the finale of the three-game set thanks to Sonny Gray's first career victory.
Gray threw 118 pitches over eight innings, giving up only four hits while striking out nine in his second Major League start.
"This is a great feeling. I'm glad that we could come away with the win after losing the last few nights. I feel like that was big and hopefully we can keep the ball rolling now. It is nice to get the first win," said Gray.
The Oakland offense was powered by Nate Freiman, who went 4-for-4 with a two- run homer and four RBI.
After losing eight straight to the Athletics to close out last year's season series, the Indians opened up the 2013 matchup with a four-game sweep at home from May 6-9.