CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Indians pitcher Justin Masterson had a rocky start to his outing against the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field Monday, but what mattered most was the way he fought through to the finish.
Masterson got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and gave up only three hits in seven scoreless innings of work as the Indians (28-30) extended their winning streak to four games with a 3-2 victory over the defending World Series champion Red Sox (27-30).
"Boy, it took him, I think, 66 pitches to get the first seven outs, and then, he got (A.J.) Pierzynski to hit into the double play," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think he threw 24 or 25 strikes in a row. We talked a little bit earlier about the first three innings, he kind of cruised, and then, he runs into a tough spot.
"He kind of flipped it tonight. Boy, did he ever. He's facing a bunch of left-handers, and he stayed down. He started changing speeds. He just attacked the strike zone. You look in the third inning, and you're thinking, 'Okay, we've got the lead, but we're going to be in our bullpen early, and he got us pretty deep."
Masterson quickly gained his rhythm after early control issues and struck out Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes, right fielder Grady Sizemore and shortstop Stephen Drew on nine straight pitches in the top of the fourth.
"He made a huge pitch to Gomes," Francona said. "He was scattering balls, but he made a huge pitch when he had to, and it allowed him to settle in and find himself. (It was) a nice, good pitch.
"You can kind of see when Masty's fighting it, and when he's not. He looked like, for a while there, that he was throwing those pitches with a lot of conviction, which is a good sign. When you're throwing that many strikes and you're throwing them with all pitches, you're going to be confident."
Masterson earned his third victory of the season and lowered his earned run average by nearly half a run by scattering three hits and four walks over seven innings and striking out 10 Red Sox batters, including two each from Sizemore and Gomes.
"We were just throwing a lot of strikes," Masterson said. "That was the biggest thing. We were pounding the zone pretty good. I was getting in good counts for myself, and then, I had good movement. The slider started working really well, so once we got ahead, we were able to use that slider to put a couple guys away.
"I feel like I've probably thrown 25 straight balls in one game. It just felt like we pounded the zone and were able to put some guys away. That was really what I felt, really under control tonight, and that was great."
After striking out Boston's lead-off hitter, Brock Holt, Masterson gave up a single to Xander Bogarets and walked second baseman Dustin Pedroia, as well as catcher A.J. Pierzynski. However, he earned his first strikeout of Gomes with a fastball that left the bases loaded in the first inning.
"The best thing was, we still felt decently under control," Masterson said. "We were just kind of missing, but 'Hey, just keep going with the game plan and then, things are going to work out.' Sure enough, I was able to get that strikeout, a 3-0 strikeout. I went from 3-0 to 3-3, which was pretty nice. Being able to do that, and to come after that, the confidence is at an all-time high.
"It almost seemed like it energized the guys. We get out of that jam, and the guys go score a few runs and then, put on another run later. That, in and of itself, kind of helped things out. They were turning some great double plays and really just put some runs on the board."
Even though they know what he is capable of at his best, Masterson's teammates were impressed by the way he attacked the Red Sox, who had six hitters with a batting average of .263 or better in the lineup Monday.
"He was throwing strike one tonight," Indians center fielder Michael Bourn said. "He had his sinker working and his slider working. He's tough to beat when he's like that. He was pounding the strike zone a lot.
"He may have struggled in the first a little bit, but he got out of the jam and was able to go through the lineup pretty (well), and that's a world-champion lineup over there. It's not an easy lineup to go through, but he made it look easy tonight. He was on his game, and that's what makes him good. He was on his game tonight."