Cleveland, OH – Justin Masterson came into Wednesday's game with the Reds as the pitcher with the least run support in the American League.
After his last start against the Pirates, a 2-0 win, the Indians' top starter told reporters he needed to make sure nobody scores. Turns out, he was serious.
While he didn't quite complete a shutout, Masterson (4-6) allowed one or fewer runs for the third consecutive start in a brilliant performance, and the Indians' offense finally came alive for him in an 8-1 rout of the Cincinnati Reds to sweep an intrastate series.
"It was nice being able to mix and match a four-seamer, sinker in the zone," Masterson said. "I think that was the probably the biggest thing. It had a lot of good movement in the zone."
The Pirates were the worst offense in the majors, but the Cincinnati Reds came in boasting one of the league's top run-producing lineups, including MVP- caliber hitter Joey Votto.
Masterson, the Indians' Opening Day starter after a breakout 2011 season, had a 5.14 earned run average heading into June. After allowing an unearned run and only three hits in his fourth career complete game, it's down to a more respectable 3.98. He struck out nine and didn't walk a batter for the third time in his last five starts.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Johnny Damon homered in a five-run fourth, and Lonnie Chisenhall added a three-run double for the Indians, who returned the favor to the Reds after being swept last week in Cincinnati.
Bronson Arroyo (3-5) struggled from the outset, tossing 90 pitches in four mediocre innings while allowing five runs and eight hits. The Reds have now lost seven straight in Cleveland and split the season series with the Indians.
The Reds never stood a chance on Wednesday, putting only two baserunners on in the first four innings. Chris Heisey was the runner both times, but was part of a double play in the first and got caught stealing in the fourth.
Cleveland ran numerous deep counts on Arroyo, but couldn't break through until the pair of homers in the fourth. Masterson must have breathed a sigh of relief, as he hadn't seen that much support in a game, let alone an inning, since May 3.
Masterson still pitched as though he didn't have a lead at all, setting the Reds down in order in the fifth and sixth. Votto singled in the seventh, but Brandon Phillips grounded out weakly to the pitcher's mound to end the inning.
"The ball was moving everywhere," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Masterson's pitches. "He was keeping the ball down. When he did get some balls up, we fouled them off."
Following Chisenhall's three-run double, the Reds got their lone run after Jay Bruce reached on a Cabrera error. He eventually came around to score on a groundout, but it hardly put a dent in the deficit.
The Indians now have 300 runs this season, one more than the Detroit Tigers in the same number of games...Masterson hasn't allowed an earned run in 20 innings...This was the first time since 1999 these two teams had met while both occupying first place.