CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson is starting to settle in, which means good things for his team and bad things for opposing hitters.
Despite not being involved in the decision, Masterson allowed only two runs on six hits with two walks over 6.1 innings of work in Friday's 3-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Progressive Field. He matched the strikeout total put up by Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison with nine punch outs of his own and 68 of his 93 pitches went for strikes.
"The last few games, the slider's been picking up pretty good, and general, (I had) better control than I had the last couple games," Masterson said. "It just worked out better."
Masterson started the season strong when he threw seven innings of three-hit baseball in a win at the Oakland Athletics, but failed to go five innings in his second and third appearances. After allowing five earned runs in back-to-back starts against the Minnesota Twins (April 6) and at the Chicago White Sox (April 12), Masterson brought down his earned run average by nearly one run Friday against the Blue Jays.
"Some things we've been working on, even between starts, I was kind of excited about," Masterson said. "Coming into the bullpen, I felt pretty good and Melky (Cabrera) had a really good day. Even still, I was in the zone, around the zone making some decent pitches. The sinker's moving real good and I had a pretty good slider too."
Having three pitches working on Friday allowed Masterson to register a season-high nine strikeouts, and three of those punch outs came when the Blue Jays worked the Tribe's ace into a jam in the top of the third inning.
Masterson struck out right fielder Moises Sierra to start the third, but shortstop Ryan Goins and left fielder Melky Cabrera hit back-to-back singles. Then, after second baseman Munenori Kawasaki struck out, designated hitter Jose Bautista drew a walk to load the bases.
However, Masterson worked his way out of trouble and left the bases loaded when he struck out first baseman Edwin Encarnacion swinging on an 82-mile-per-hour slider.
"It goes back to the fact we felt comfortable with what we could throw," Masterson said. "The sinker, we could put it where we needed to, for the most part. The four-seamer had some stuff behind it and then, the slider was there too. They had a guy on first and second and then, they move over and we walk Bautista. I still felt confident with who was coming up next."