If the Indians are going anywhere this season, their pitching staff will have to take them there.
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The staff stumbled out of the gate, but there are indications of late that two key pitchers may have turned the corner.
One of them is No. 1 starter Justin Masterson, who pitched seven strong innings Friday to anchor a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Masterson pitched seven scoreless innings on four hits, striking out nine, to pick up just his third win in 14 starts.
Masterson (3-6) lowered his ERA, which was over 5.00 for the first two months of the season, to 4.38. He has allowed one earned run in his last 16 innings.
The other key member of the rotation is Ubaldo Jimenez, who will start the second game of the series Saturday vs. the Pirates. Like Masterson, Jimenez got off to a very rocky start in 2012. His 6-4 record doesn’t reflect it. Like Masterson, Jimenez had an ERA over 5.00 for the first two months of the season.
However, in his last two starts, Jimenez has allowed just two earned runs in 13 2/3 innings, which has lowered his season ERA from 5.79 to 4.91. Manager Manny Acta is thus encouraged by the recent work of his top two starters.
“That’s three in a row where he’s pitched like he did last year,” Acta said of Masterson. “If he and Ubaldo can keep doing that, we’re in business.”
Eighth-inning hit pushes Brantley’s streak to 22 games
–OF Michael Brantley, 0-for-3 to that point in the game, stroked an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning Friday night to extend his career-high hitting streak to 22 games, the longest active streak in the majors. “He’s a cool cat,” manager Manny Acta said. “He wasn’t thinking about his streak. He was thinking about driving in that run.”
–3B Jack Hannahan was activated off the disabled list Friday, and he went 0-for-3 in his first appearance for the Indians since May 26. Hannahan had been sidelined due to a strained left calf.
–LHP Scott Barnes was optioned to Class AAA Columbus to make room on the roster for 3B Jack Hannahan, who was activated off the disabled list. Barnes made four appearances with the Indians, three of them very good. However, he allowed five runs in one-third of an inning Thursday at Cincinnati, leaving him with a 10.38 ERA. “We like him a lot. He got his feet wet up here, and I’m sure we’ll see him again this year,” manager Manny Acta said.
–RHP Justin Masterson, who seems to be turning his season around after a bumpy first two months, pitched seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball to get the win in a 2-0 Indians victory over Pittsburgh on Friday night. “He was fantastic. He pitched ahead in the count, had good sink to his fastball and the best slider he’s had all year,” manager Manny Acta said.
–RHP Chris Perez got the save Friday night, the 21st consecutive save situation he has converted. That ties Doug Jones for the second-longest, single-season streak by an Indians reliever since the save became an official statistic in 1969. Jones’ streak came in 1988. The club record is 38 straight converted saves, by Jose Mesa in 1995.
BY THE NUMBERS: .176 — Opponents’ batting average vs. RHP Chris Perez over his last 26 appearances, during which he has a 1.46 ERA and 21 saves.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “That’s three in a row that he’s pitched deep into games. That’s a good indication he’s going to be OK.” — Manager Manny Acta, on RHP Justin Masterson, who after a rough start to the 2012 season has a 1.80 ERA in his last three starts.
–DH Travis Hafner (sore right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 24. He had surgery May 31 to repair a frayed meniscus, and he will be out until late June or early July.
–LHP Rafael Perez (strained left lat muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 26.
–OF Grady Sizemore (back surgery in March 2012) went on the 60-day disabled list April 4. He was cleared to begin baseball activities in late April and took live batting practice May 16. His rehab was slowed again in early June, and there was no timetable for his return.
–RHP Carlos Carrasco (Tommy John surgery in September 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 26. He might miss the entire season.