CLEVELAND – It was good while it lasted for Justin Masterson. It just didn’t last that long.
After ending a lengthy losing skid with consecutive victories, Masterson was back on the wrong end of things again Tuesday night at Progressive Field, with the Indians dropping a 7-6 decision to the Mets in the opener of a three-game interleague series.
Masterson (2-6, 5.02 ERA) took the loss but the credit for it doesn’t go entirely to the right-hander, who was derailed by shoddy fielding from the Indians all night, especially in a disastrous fifth inning that tipped the scales in the Mets’ favor.
“I thought Justin threw the ball extremely well again tonight,” said Cleveland manager Manny Acta of Masterson, who allowed seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits over seven innings. “We just ended up beating ourselves in that inning by not making the plays. You’ve got to play defense. That inning cost us the ballgame.”
The Mets produced seven infield hits (two bunt singles) on the night, four alone in a five-run fifth inning that brought New York from a 4-1 deficit to a 6-4 advantage.
First baseman Russell Branyan misplayed a bunt single from Alex Cora that was followed by a throwing error from Masterson on another bunt single from Jose Reyes that scored two runs.
An RBI-infield single from David Wright that shortstop Jason Donald made the play on but threw late to first preceded a two-run homer from Ike Davis that capped the disastrous inning.
“It was definitely an interesting game, but I felt like I threw the ball pretty well,” said Masterson, who kept the ball on the ground for much of the night without the expected results. “We just had the one hiccup in the fifth inning. Other than that, I thought it went well.
“It’s kind of disappointing because you look at it and see what it is, but you wonder how it got there. I don’t know what it was but it didn’t do it for us.”
Donald was the culprit on the majority of Cleveland’s defensive shortcomings. He committed two of his team’s three errors and despite making a number of plays to his left and right, Donald was late with throws to first on too many occasions.
“They were beating the ball on the ground but it was to the right and to the left of the kid,” Acta said. “He had a bit of a rough night out there.”
“I take a lot of pride in my defense and I gave them extra outs,” Donald said. “With that lineup, you can’t do that. I put this one on me.”
The unorthodox offensive support was enough for Mets starter Johan Santana to snap his personal five-game losing streak against the Indians that was built during the left-hander’s final year in Minnesota in 2007. Cleveland beat Santana five times in six starts that season.
It appeared the former AL Cy Young award winner (2004, ’06) would extend his futility against the Indians when Cleveland scored four times over the first four innings.
A homer from Travis Hafner to lead off the second scored the Indians’ first run, with Trevor Crowe’s two-run single in the same inning making it 3-1. Donald’s RBI single in the fourth put the Indians in front by three runs.
But Santana got stingy after that. After Donald’s base hit, Santana retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.
“That’s what good pitchers do,” Acta said of Santana, who allowed four runs on seven hits over seven innings. “You have to get to them early and not let them get in a groove. He’s a veteran. Once he got the lead, he turned it up a notch.”
Pinch hitter Shelley Duncan’s two-run homer off Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez brought the Indians to within a run with two outs in the ninth, but Crowe flied out to left to end the game.
The Indians, who have ranked near the bottom of the league in the homer department all season, went deep for the fourth straight game. They have homered in eight of their last nine games with a total of 12 over the span.
Shin-Soo Choo’s hitting streak came to an end at 11 games, Cleveland’s right fielder going 0-for-4 while lining out twice to outfielders.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com.