Justin Masterson will likely be a big part of any late-season push by the Cleveland Indians.
Coming off a 14-inning victory, the Indians will push Masterson to provide their bullpen with some much-needed rest in this finale against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.
Indians relievers have posted a 1.38 ERA over the first eight games of their road trip, including 8 2-3 scoreless innings on Tuesday.
Masterson (13-9, 3.59 ERA) ranks fourth in the major leagues with 175 2-3 innings, including three complete games while going six-plus innings in 23 of his 26 starts.
Masterson has not been of much help during the Indians’ current push. After winning three straight games from July 21 through Aug. 1 with an 0.84 ERA, he is 0-2 with a 5.68 ERA over his last three starts.
He has been plagued by poor run support, as Cleveland has scored just three runs over his last three starts. That carried into Oakland on Friday, when Masterson lost after allowing three runs in 7 2-3 innings.
“We just couldn’t catch a break when it came down to it,” Masterson told the team’s official website. “It’s a tough one.”
That outing was far better than his previous one, when the right-hander gave up five runs in 4 1-3 innings to the Angels (55-70) before the Indians rallied for a 6-5 win Aug. 11.
Josh Hamilton, who had an RBI single in that game, is 9 for 15 lifetime off Masterson with two home runs.
The Indians were held to five hits over the first 13 innings Tuesday before coming up with three in the 14th – including Drew Stubbs’ two-run homer – to win 4-1.
“We were grinding all night,” Stubbs said. “Ultimately, pitching and defense wins games. If they don’t score, you don’t lose.”
Cleveland is second-to-last in the AL with 68 runs in the month of August.
Carlos Santana, who hit just .115 from August 2-17, is 4 for his last 11 and has posted an RBI in three straight games, including his solo home run Tuesday.
Cleveland, 3 1/2 games behind Oakland for the AL’s second wild-card spot, will look to spark its offense against a struggling Jerome Williams.
Williams (5-9, 4.90) is 0-7 with a 7.26 ERA in 11 starts since rejoining Los Angeles’ rotation.
The Indians (68-58) snapped a six-game losing streak on Aug. 11 with four runs – including homers by Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles – in 5 2-3 innings against Williams.
Williams, who has 15 walks over his last six starts, was wild again Friday, giving up three runs and four free passes in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-2 loss to Houston.
“I don’t really feel frustrated at all,” Williams said. “Things haven’t been going my way, so what can I do? I just have to keep going out there and trying to get people out.”
The Angels’ difficulties with runners in scoring position reached a new low on Tuesday, as they couldn’t score with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the 10th inning and went 1 for 13 overall. They are 28 for their last 137 (.204) with runners in scoring position and left 17 runners on base Tuesday, their highest total since May 19, 2001 – also against Cleveland.
Los Angeles will hope to get a little punch back in its lineup with the potential return of Mike Trout, who has missed the last two games with a tight right hamstring. Trout has reached base in 40 consecutive games and leads Los Angeles with 88 runs and 28 stolen bases.
Fellow outfielder Peter Bourjos has struggled lately, going 0 for 18 since coming back from being on the disabled list with a broken right wrist.