Beavercreek’s Justin Masterson watched his Indians lose to the Reds on Tuesday from the front row of the dugout at Great American Ball Park.
Masterson, a 28-year-old right-hander, couldn’t have liked what he saw as Cleveland dropped both games in Cincinnati, but maybe he liked the pressure of knowing he would have a chance to turn the tide Wednesday when the Reds visited the Indians. A day before his 12th start, in which he would get the win against the Reds by allowing one run in six innings, Masterson talked about a season that could turn out to be his best yet.
“It’s been good,” Masterson said Tuesday. “I’ve been happy with the way the ball’s coming out of my hands in every single start. Even when I’ve given up a couple of runs, a lot of times it’s been one pitch or just some singles roped together. You can’t do much about that after you let the ball go. For the most part, I’ve been pretty happy.”
Masterson (8-3) is tied for the Major League lead in victories, leads the majors in innings pitched (82) and ranks fifth in strikeouts (83). His 3.07 ERA is much improved from last season (4.93) and even better than 2011 (3.21) when he won a career-high 12 games.
Masterson was named American League Player of the Week after throwing 16 scoreless innings with 20 strikeouts in consecutive wins against the Mariners and Yankees on May 13 and 19. Masterson stretched his scoreless innings streak to 20 before giving up five earned runs in six innings in his last start against the Red Sox on May 24.
Masterson said this start is similar to 2011 when he was 5-3 with a 3.07 ERA through 11 starts.
“It’s another good start. It’s nice to have for sure,” he said. “I was hoping for it. We made some adjustments coming off last year and worked in spring training to try to implement those and carry them into the season.
“Really it’s just been about the fact that I’m trying to keep the effort level low. I’m trying not to overthrow, just allow the pitches to come out. When I try to create more, I’m not in the strike zone. If I do less, I’m in the strike zone more and I’m able to get ahead.”
Masterson said he still throws hard, but without sacrificing control.
“When I try to throw hard, that’s when the effort level goes up,” he said. “When you try to make things happen, that’s when you get in trouble. When it’s nice and easy, you don’t have as much trouble.”
Masterson has been reunited this season with Terry Francona. The first-year Indians manager was the skipper in Boston when Masterson began his big league career in 2008.
“I was slightly surprised, but then once I heard it, he called me up and talked about it,” Masterson said. “I knew there were going to be some changes. Something was going to happen. We were going to pick somebody up or do something because he’s not going to let the status-quo go and hope we win.”