November 20, 2014

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White Sox 7, Indians 2: Masterson skid still going

CLEVELAND — To quote the Little River Band: “Have you heard about the lonesome loser?” His name is Justin Masterson.

As has been the case for much of his time in the Indians’ rotation, Masterson was on the losing end Monday night at Progressive Field, offering up what might have been his worst performance of the year in a 7-2 loss to the White Sox. The right-hander allowed five runs on nine hits in just four innings of work, falling to 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA on the season.

It was Masterson’s 11th straight loss dating back to last season, which placed him among dubi­ous company in Cleveland pitch­ing lore. He joined four others — Guy Morton (13 in 1914), Rod Nichols (13, 1989-91), Steve Har­gan (11, 1971-72) and Fausto Car­mona (11, 2006-07) — to own los­ing streaks of 11 or more.

Since Masterson joined Cleve­land’s rotation after arriving in a trade with the Red Sox for Victor Martinez last year, he has won just once in a span of 19 starts.

“No, not really,” Masterson said when asked if the losing was weighing on him. “Just not pitch­ing as well as you’d like to, is what really gets on your mind. At times, it’s been some tough luck. At times, it’s them being good hit­ters, and other times it’s just me not pitching as well as I’d like to.”

On this occasion, it was the third choice, Masterson struggling with his command for the duration of his outing, especially in the opening inning, when he allowed four runs. During that fateful inning, Masterson allowed four hits, walked one and threw a wild pitch — the first of three on the night.

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“Justin had poor command and he made us play catch-up baseball from inning one,” said manager Manny Acta, whose team dropped the series opener to the Sox after snapping a season- high six-game losing skid the day before.

Masterson’s hold on a rotation spot appears to be slipping away each time he takes the mound.

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“We’ll see,” Acta said. “It’s not going to be a knee-jerk reaction after the game. As of now, he’s starting for us.”

If the Indians choose to move Masterson into the bullpen, the prime candidate to take his spot in the rotation would appear to be Aaron Laffey, who has started sporadically for Cleveland over the past three seasons.

Or as Acta put it: “Anybody who has an Indians uniform is an option.”

That would include members of the Triple-A Columbus rotation.

Masterson, who lasted just four innings for the third time this season, hasn’t gotten a lot of run support — the Indians entering Monday scoring 34 runs over 15 starts during his losing skid.

That was the case again, the Indians getting the majority of their offensive production from the last two hitters in the lineup — Lou Marson and Jason Donald, who combined to account for four of their club’s seven hits and one of its two RBIs.

The Indians struggled with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-12, while leaving 10 on base. Marson singled and Donald doubled to lead off the third, yet the Indians failed to score when Sox starter John Danks retired Trevor Crowe, Shin-Soo Choo and Austin Kearns in succession to end the inning.

“It’s nice to see the young kids step up and perform,” Acta said. “At the same time, you want it to be in a better way, winning a ballgame.

“We had an opportunity to get back in the game. I thought we had some good at-bats against Danks, but our situational hitting wasn’t very good.”

It was Chicago’s second win in seven games against the Indians this year, Cleveland going 5-11 against the rest of the Central Division.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.

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