CLEVELAND — Monday’s doubleheader didn’t end the way the Indians wanted, but they got a good start, which continued a trend of recent good starts.
With Justin Masterson throwing a complete-game shutout in the opener and Trevor Bauer giving up just two earned runs in six-plus innings in the second game, Indians starters went 15 2/3 innings and gave up just three runs, two earned, to the Yankees.
Which isn’t half bad.
Go back to the last doubleheader, a day-night split in Kansas City on April 28. The Indians were blown out in the first game 9-0, but something happened between games. Because since then, the starters have been better than good.
Among the numbers:
— An 11-3 record in 16 starts.
— An ERA by the starters in those 16 games of 2.89.
— Only two of those 16 games in which the starters gave up more than three runs — Kluber gave up eight to Detroit last Friday, Masterson gave up five to Minnesota last week. In all the others, the Indians starters gave up three runs or fewer.
— Dismiss the two nights Masterson and Kluber struggled, and in the other 14 starts the ERA is 1.95.
Go down the list. Masterson in that time is 2-0 with a 3.17 ERA. Zach McAllister 2-0 and 1.74. Ubaldo Jimenez is 3-0 and 1.45, Scott Kazmir 2-0 and 2.25, Bauer 1-1 and 1.59.
Managers talk about quality starts and keeping the team in the game and giving the team a chance to win. That’s what the Indians’ starters have done the last 16 games.
Not coincidentally, the Indians are 13-3 in those games.
Monday, the Indians scored one run in two games, but won one because their starter was so good.
“Masty went out and did exactly what you want your ace to do,” manager Terry Francona said. “They loaded up with their lefties and from the very first pitch of the game he had power, he had a breaking ball, he attacked hitters.”
Not only did Masterson win a 1-0 game — the Indians’ only run was on a Jason Kipnis home run — they saved their bullpen, a Francona priority.
In the second game, Bauer gave up an early unearned run, then shut the Yankees down until giving up two in the seventh. But reliever Nick Hagadone was the one who struggled, not Bauer.
“You know what … he keeps them off the scoreboard,” Francona said of Bauer.
Which is pretty much the idea.
“There’s so much to like about him, and he’s still developing,” Francona said. “But even in the midst of that … coming up like he does isn’t the easiest thing to do, and he gives us a chance every time he pitches.”
Pitching coach Mickey Callaway has worked with all the starters — especially Ubaldo Jimenez — on mechanics and some common sense logic. He attributes the recent success to one factor he’s emphasized.
“I think they’re just pounding the zone,” Callaway said over the weekend in Detroit, which means before Masterson’s shutout.
He meant throwing good pitches for strikes and getting ahead in the count. Yankees second-game starter Vidal Nuno — a former Indians draft pick — did that and was able to shut the Indians out for five innings. Francona called it “pitching 101.”
Against the Indians’ entire staff, opponents are hitting .262 (.872 OPS) after a 2-1 count, and .310 (1.224) after a 3-0 count. Reverse it and opponents are hitting .130 (.349 OPS) after the count is 0-2, and .155 (.453) after it’s 1-2.
“If you pound the zone, get ahead, then you’re gonna have success,” Callaway said. “The stuff’s always been there for all of them. They got to go out there and do it, pound the zone. When they do it, they’ll be good.”
And when they’re good, the Indians have a chance — and feel pretty good about themselves even after losing the second game of a doubleheader.
“Add another win to the column,” Nick Swisher said. “Three games in 36 hours, win two out of those three … I don’t feel bad about that.”