ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Justin Masterson ended Cleveland’s 11-game skid in his previous start with a strong outing against Minnesota. He had another one Monday night against the Los Angeles Angels to help stop the Indians’ 10-game road losing streak.
“I had no clue. I just wanted to go out and pitch well,” Masterson said after taking a shutout into the seventh inning of a 6-2 victory.
“Starting another long road trip, you want to start out with a good effort. And that’s what I was trying to give us. I got behind in a few counts where I didn’t want to, but I’ll definitely take the effort that I had tonight. I caught a couple of breaks here and there, which always helps out.”
Brent Lillibridge homered off All-Star lefty C.J. Wilson, who has dropped five straight decisions, to help the Indians bounce back from their most lopsided loss of the season.
In the opener of a 10-game trip, Masterson (9-10) scattered six hits, struck out four and walked three over six-plus innings. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in seven career starts against the Angels, the lowest mark of any pitcher with at least five starts against them.
“He was throwing low-to-mid-90s (mph) with a power sinker, and it’s good enough that he can probably just use that one pitch and get by. But he combined it with a few off-speed pitches,” Angels slugger Mark Trumbo said. “One pitch goes straight and the next drops a couple of feet, so sometimes your eyes and your mind aren’t quick enough to adjust.”
Joe Smith relieved Masterson after Trumbo led off the seventh with an infield hit and Alberto Callaspo singled. The sidearming righty retired Howie Kendrick on a fly ball, struck out Erick Aybar and slipped a called third strike past Chris Iannetta with two runners in scoring position.
Vinnie Pestano, who was born in nearby Huntington Beach, attended Anaheim’s Canyon High School and played his college ball at Cal State Fullerton, gave up a majestic two-run homer by Albert Pujols into the left-field bullpen with one out in the Angels’ eighth after a leadoff walk to Mike Trout.
Pujols’ 25th homer snapped the right-hander’s scoreless streak at 21 1-3 innings, the longest by an Indians reliever since Paul Assenmacher’s run of 23 1-3 innings in 1997.
But the Indians responded with three runs in the ninth after Jason Isringhausen inherited a bases-loaded, none-out jam from Hisanori Takahashi. Lou Marson drew a bases-loaded walk, pinch-hitter Jason Kipnis followed with a sacrifice fly and Casey Kotchman scored on a wild pitch.
Esmil Rogers gave up two singles to begin the Angels’ ninth, but Chris Perez struck out all three batters he faced to get his 32nd save in 36 chances and 100th of his career.
“Esmil Rogers was nice enough to give C.P. a save opportunity so he’d get that 100th save, so it was a real good team effort,” Masterson joked. “I mean, if that isn’t a team player, I don’t know who is.”
The loss kept the Angels eight games behind first-place Texas in the AL West.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s where we’re at,” Trumbo said. “That’s the reality of it. So you can either pout and sulk over what’s been going on, or you can chalk it up and say that it’s going to happen sometimes. I think everybody probably wishes they might be doing a little better at this point. We’re not terribly removed from the top teams, and I think everyone in this room really believes that’s where we’re going to be.”
Wilson (9-9) allowed three runs — two earned — and six hits in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out five and was replaced by LaTroy Hawkins after knocking down Marson’s line-drive single with his bare hand.
Wilson left with a bruise and X-rays were negative. He is 0-5 with a 5.36 ERA and seven home runs allowed over his last eight starts after going 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA and only one homer allowed in his previous eight outings.
The Indians, coming off a 14-1 home loss to Boston, got the jump on Wilson with consecutive RBI singles by Jason Donald and Asdrubal Cabrera in the third inning. One of the runs was unearned due to Kendrick’s error on a leadoff grounder to second base by Lillibridge.
Cleveland extended its lead to 3-0 in the fourth when Lillibridge homered to left-center with two outs. It was his second in 13 games with the Indians, after going homerless in his 79 previous games this season with the White Sox and Red Sox. He hit 13 last year for Chicago.
“He brings us a lot of versatility and energy,” manager Manny Acta said. “We saw Lillibridge from the other side of the field when he was with the White Sox, and he can play the infield and the outfield. And now that we’ve been giving him more at-bats, he’s been swinging the bat better and he’s done a good job against lefties. Plus, he has speed, which is something we didn’t have early in the year.”
NOTES: Isringhausen, who broke into the majors with the New York Mets in 1995 as a starter and became a full-time reliever in 1999 with Oakland, surpassed 1,000 innings. … The Angels haven’t scored a first-inning run in eight consecutive games — despite the fact that Trout, their leadoff hitter, has crossed the plate a major league-leading 88 times. Trout walked in the first before extending his club record for consecutive stolen bases to 28. … Pujols became the ninth player to hit 25 or more homers in 12 consecutive seasons.