Justin Masterson got off to quite the most promising and expected start in 2013 only adding new optimism for Cleveland's chances to contend in the AL Central. The Tribe come into tonight's action trailing the first place Tigers by 3 games. Overall Masterson is 4-2 with a 3.64 ERA, but after yielding just one ER over his first 22 IP, he's struggled mightily over his last 4 starts. Masterson is just 1-2 with a 6.48 ERA since. the only good that came out of his last appearance was a no-decision giving up 5 runs on 8 hits over 7 innings that eventually resulted in a 7-6 win against Minnesota this past weekend.
While the Indians have taken the first 2 games of this 4 game set, they have not exactly hit well as of late, and that could be crucial in providing enough run support for a suddenly struggling Masterson. To add insult to injury, he has not pitched well in his career against Oakland, losing 5 of 6 decisions with an ERA north of 10. Still, the Tribe is third in the league in hitting (.271) and are tied with 3 other teams for the lead in HR with 44. Mark Reynolds (.291 10 27) leads the club in HR and RBi seemingly not missing a beat since averaging 30 dingers over his last 2 seasons playing with Baltimore. Carlos Santana (.355 6 14) leads the team in batting, and if you combine the talent with balance up and down the lineup it poses a legitimate threat to opposing pitchers while giving their own hurlers a motivated boost.
Speaking of the opposition, Oakland counters with AJ Griffin (3-2 3.79) who has proved to be sharp especially on the road his last few starts. Last Friday he allowed only 6 hits shutting out the Yankees 2-0 at the Stadium. Griffin has walked just 11 batters in 38 innings while striking out 27. He could use some much needed offense from the suddenly silent bats who are hitting a paltry .249 with just 33 HR over the first fifth of the campaign. Josh Donaldson (.303 3 23) and Jed Lowrie (.303 3 15) have both provided some clutch hitting. Yoenis Cespedes (.244 6 18) has hit some timely tape measure shots and Brandon Moss (.290 4 19) has provided some clutch contribution at the plate. The A's are without outfielder Josh Reddick, who received a cortisone shot before the game on his sore right wrist after an MRI revealed inflammation in the joint. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday.
The price is a bit on the step side this evening, but we're not concerned especially since we've rolled over the books during our last 5 plays. Progressive Field may not be one of the more friendlier venues when it comes to offense, but the matchups this evening may prove positive for both teams if Masterson is anything but masterful. Best of luck however you play!