After leading the playoff-qualifying Cleveland Indians with 14 victories in 2013, Justin Masterson hasn’t done much to help a rotation that has been one of the majors’ worst so far this season.
Perhaps he’ll be able to turn things around against a Toronto Blue Jays team that he’s dominated in his Cleveland career.
Masterson looks to help the Indians win for only the third time in eight games Friday night in the opener of a three-game set against the Blue Jays.
Although he won seven of his first nine decisions en route to a career-best win total last season, Masterson (0-0, 5.87 ERA) hasn’t been able to replicate that start since throwing seven shutout innings in the 2014 opener.
The right-hander has given up 12 runs – 10 earned – 14 hits and walked eight over 15 1-3 frames in his last two outings. On Saturday, he was charged with six runs, seven hits and five walks in 4 2-3 innings of a 12-6 win at the Chicago White Sox.
"I was decently happy with the way things took place as far as how I felt when I let go of the ball," Masterson said. "Sometimes after letting go of the ball, the things I can’t control, they got me a little bit."
Masterson isn’t the only starter struggling for the Indians (7-8), whose rotation has a 5.18 ERA that ranks among the highest in baseball. Danny Salazar allowed five runs over 4 2-3 innings in a 7-5 loss at Detroit on Thursday.
Masterson may be able to get on track since he’s 2-0 with a 1.30 ERA in his last four starts against the Blue Jays (8-8). He’s also 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four home games – three starts – versus Toronto since joining the Indians.
Brett Lawrie (0 for 6), Colby Rasmus (1 for 10) and Edwin Encarnacion (2 for 14) have struggled when facing Masterson, though Melky Cabrera has gone 12 for 24 with a home run.
Cabrera, however, failed to get a hit for the first time in 15 games Thursday when the Blue Jays were shut out for the first time in a 7-0 loss in the opener of a doubleheader at Minnesota.
In Game 2, Jose Bautista hit his sixth home run before the bullpen allowed six runs in the eighth inning of a 9-5 loss. They played both games without Adam Lind, who is hitting .324 and is day to day with lower-back tightness.
Toronto starter Drew Hutchison (1-1, 3.68) was hit hard in his only home start, but he’s yet to allow a run over 11 1-3 innings in his two on the road. However, he’s received just one run of support in his last two outings.
"I have all the confidence in the world in our offense, just like the rest of our team does," Hutchison said. "It doesn’t change my mindset one bit. My job is to go out and put up zeroes."
The right-hander will try to find a way to cool off Lonnie Chisenhall, who had a career-high four hits Thursday. He’s batting .522 while hitting safely in all seven games this season, but is just 3 for 24 lifetime versus Toronto.
Michael Brantley went 2 for 5 with a homer Thursday, and is 17 for 32 (.531) during a nine-game hitting streak against the Blue Jays.
Cleveland won four of the six meetings last season.