Created on Thursday, 18 April 2013 Written by AP
CLEVELAND (AP) — Justin Masterson's impeccable start to the season couldn't last forever. Finally, it's flawed.
After winning three straight games, outpitching Cy Young winners two win two of them, and stringing together 19 scoreless innings, Masterson was handed his first loss Wednesday night as the Boston Red Sox got to him early and beat the Cleveland Indians 6-3 for their fifth win in a row.
Dodging trouble in the first four innings, Masterson (3-1) failed to go at least six innings for the first time and couldn't stop the Indians from dropping their third straight.
"It wasn't as fun as the last three I pitched, but over a season when you have 30-plus starts you're going to have some like this," Masterson said. "I kept it close as much as I could."
Converted closer Alfredo Aceves coasted through five innings, Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava drove in two runs apiece and the Red Sox, bonded by the tragedy in Boston, scored three runs off Masterson in the first.
Aceves (1-0), who began the season as a reliever, took a shutout into the sixth before giving up three runs. Andrew Bailey, filling for injured closer Joel Hanrahan, worked the ninth for his first save as Boston's bullpen finished with four perfect innings, striking out eight of the 12 batters they faced.
Napoli had an RBI single in the first when the Red Sox scored three off Masterson, who has already beaten R.A. Dickey and David Price and came in without allowing a run in 19 straight innings.
But the big right-hander he was in trouble from the start as Boston loaded the bases three times in the first four innings. Somehow, Masterson managed to keep the Indians within three runs.
"He had to pitch out of a lot of traffic," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He had to bob and weave."
Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi hit back-to-back homers for the Indians in the sixth when they chased Aceves.
Boston's starter coasted through four innings before Cleveland loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth. Asdrubal Cabrera then hit a liner to deep right that appeared as if it might clear Shane Victorino's head and the bases, but the former center fielder who was pursued as a free agent by the Indians this winter, ran it down and made the catch.
Cabrera ripped off his helmet and slammed it down with two hands in frustration.
Francona thought Cabrera's drive was headed to the wall.
"I sure did," he said. "There's not a ball hit when we're hitting that I don't think is going to be a hit, but saying that, he put a good swing on it."
The Red Sox hung a gray "617 Boston Strong" jersey in their dugout, just as they did for Tuesday's emotional series opener — one day after the deadly marathon bombings back home. The jersey has become a symbol of unity for the club, which will be back at Fenway Park on Friday to open a 10-game homestand.
Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Carp had three hits apiece as the Red Sox built Aceves a 5-0 lead.
The Indians weren't at full speed. Center fielder Michael Bourn went on the disabled list and second baseman Jason Kipnis missed his fourth game in a row with a sore elbow.
Blanked for five innings, the Indians finally got to Aceves and chased him with three runs in the sixth.
Carlos Santana walked leading off and Swisher followed with his second homer, a shot into the bullpen in center. Giambi then hit his 430th career homer — and first hit since signing with the Indians — to bring Cleveland within 5-3. Mark Reynolds hit a double and Aceves was lifted for Junichi Tazawa, who got three outs to end the inning.
The Red Sox added an unearned run in the eighth to make it 6-3. Ellsbury led off with a single, moved up on a wild pitch and scored from second when reliever Joe Smith fielded Victorino's bunt and threw wildly to first for an error.
The mood was much looser in Boston's clubhouse before the game than on Tuesday, when players solemnly went about their business with the tragedy so fresh on their minds.
Several players sat on a large leather sectional couch in the middle of the room and watched news developments from Washington and Boston on a large-screen TV. Others stayed closer to their cubicles and spent the time leading up to pregame batting practice reading and talking.
A close group to start, the Red Sox have become even tighter since the bombings. After they arrived Monday from Boston, just hours after the explosions at the marathon finish line, manager John Farrell said 22 players went out to an impromptu dinner together in downtown Cleveland.
"I don't want to downplay the events that we just left in Boston, but I think what we've quickly come to see is a group that likes to be around one another," Farrell said. "Those are encouraging signs."
Masterson came in riding his career-best scoreless streak, which came to an abrupt halt as the Red Sox scored three runs in their first at-bat.
Boston loaded the bases on opposite-field singles by Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia sandwiched around Masterson hitting Victorino.
Napoli, who drove in three runs on Tuesday, hit a two-run single — also the other way — and the Red Sox went up 3-0 on Nava's single.
NOTES: At 42, Giambi is the third-oldest player to homer for Cleveland. Sam Rice (44) in 1934 and Dave Winfield (43) in 1995 were older. ... Swisher is batting .318 with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 43 career games at Progressive Field. ... Kipnis will also sit out Thursday's series finale as the Indians will face lefty Jon Lester.