7/2/2014 9:21 P.M. ET
Control, not injury, seems to be Masterson's issue
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The results on the mound have been rough of late for sinkerballer Justin Masterson, but the Indians are convinced that the starter is healthy.
On Tuesday, Masterson logged 85 pitches in only three innings of work, marking the second straight outing that the right-hander was unable to work at least five frames. Masterson had two extra days between his past two starts to rest a sore right knee, but Cleveland does not believe the issue is serious.
"I think he actually feels OK," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Wednesday. "I think it's some command that he's going to have to fight through. I think he physically feels pretty good. ... I think he's open to working with [pitching coach Mickey Callaway] a lot. That's good. We'll fight through it together."
On the season, Masterson has gone 4-5 with a 5.16 ERA in 18 starts. Among the 10 pitchers who have logged at least 18 starts this season, Masterson has turned in the fewest innings (96). The sinkerballer has also worked with the second-highest total of baserunners (163) in the American League, trailing only Detroit righty Justin Verlander (168 in 110 2/3 innings).
Against the Dodgers, Masterson allowed three runs on seven hits and ended with seven strikeouts against three walks. In his past two starts, the right-hander has yielded a combined eight runs on 14 hits with 13 strikeouts and seven walks in seven innings. In that span, Masterson has thrown 176 pitches, including 97 strikes.
Masterson has given up 14 runs on 21 hits with 14 walks in 16 innings across his past four starts.
"It's command," Francona said. "There's times right now where he's throwing it and hoping it'll have some natural movement that'll get him out of a jam, as opposed to commanding. I think some of that is confidence. Some of that is repeating. Because, when he gets on a roll, we've all seen [how good he can be]."
Following Tuesday's outing, which came during a 10-3 win for Cleveland, Masterson clung to the positives.
"We weren't crazy out of the zone," Masterson said. "We were a lot better in the zone. The slider was good. Sinkers were pretty good and the four-seamer was there. I was pleasantly surprised. ... I was pretty happy. I was working hard through those first few innings, making stuff happen. Hey, I like where we're moving."
Murphy hopes multihit game brings end to slump
LOS ANGELES -- Indians right fielder David Murphy smirked, because he knew the question was coming. It was inevitable that the subject of his prolonged slump in the batter's box would come up, considering he had just collected three hits in a rout of the Dodgers on Tuesday night.
When Murphy's offensive woes were mentioned, he did not miss a beat.
"Was I in a slump?" Murphy deadpanned.
Not only has Murphy been in a slump, the veteran outfielder called it probably the worst multiweek skid of his nine-year Major League career. Murphy experienced a trying season a year ago with the Rangers, but he said the recent period felt worse.
Needless to say, Murphy was relieved to have contributed three hits and two RBIs in Tuesday's 10-3 win for the Tribe.
"It's a breath of fresh air," Murphy said on Tuesday. "Every one of us have gone through slumps. And when you think you've reached the limit and you're not going to go through anything worse, something comes along that tops anything you've been through.
"Praise the Lord that I had a good night. I'm just going to continue to grind and hopefully I can stay consistent and get out of this thing for good."
Prior to his three-hit showing against Los Angeles -- marking his first multihit game since June 8 -- Murphy had been mired in a 1-for-44 slump, dating back to June 13. Between June 13-21, the outfielder had a career-worst 0-for-25 drought. Then, after getting a hit in his last at-bat against the Tigers on June 21, Murphy went through an 0-for-18 spell.
At the time of his last multihit performance, Murphy was batting .291 with a .790 OPS. Through 77 games entering Wednesday, the right fielder has a .250 average to go along with five home runs, 22 extra-base hits, 40 RBIs and a .694 OPS.
Indians manager Terry Francona said Murphy is one player he does not worry too much about.
"We're thrilled he got some hits," Francona said, "but Murph's a pretty tough kid. He understands the ups and downs of a season. I don't think he was thrilled about being 2-for-whatever, but he's too good. Those things go in streaks. He'll get hot."
Brantley makes All-Star case with all-around play
LOS ANGELES -- Michael Brantley scorched a pitch from Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu down the third-base line in the fifth inning on Wednesday. It was a rocket of a line drive, but it found its way right into the glove of Los Angeles third baseman Miguel Rojas for a hard-luck out.
When Brantley returned to the visitors' dugout at Dodger Stadium, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer walked over and put his arms around the left fielder.
"He's hit a lot of balls hard right at people," Bauer said with a smirk. "I kind of felt like he could use a hug."
Brantley went 0-for-4 in the Indians' 5-4 win over Los Angeles, but the outfielder's case for his first All-Star Game was hardly hurt in the process. In fact, Brantley still played a key role in the three-run rally in the eighth inning that swung the game in Cleveland's favor.
With the Tribe trailing by a run, Brantley drew a leadoff walk against Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson. The outfielder then stole second base, marking his 10th theft of the season. Brantley later scored from second on a base hit to left field from David Murphy that helped ignite the Indians' decisive push.
During Tuesday's 10-3 rout over the Dodgers, Brantley showed off his skill both in the batter's box and in the field. He collected an RBI double in the first inning as part of a two-hit showing. In the fourth inning of that win, Brantley threw Dee Gordon out at the plate as part of a 7-2-4 triple play.
That play moved Brantley into a tie with Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes for the most outfield assists (10) in the Majors this season. In the batter's box, Brantley has hit .312 with 12 home runs, 20 doubles, 54 RBIs and 56 runs scored in 80 games.
"He just continues to get better," said Indians bench coach Brad Mills, who doubles as the team's outfield instructor. "With age and maturity, being around the game and experience, he just continues to get better. He knows the game extremely well. He knows all the details, the things that go into everything. He pays attention to all those details. That's what kind of sets him apart."
As of Monday's American League All-Star ballot update -- the last before rosters are announced on the Taco Bell All-Star Selection Show on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN -- Brantley again ranked sixth among outfielders with 1,630,452 votes as Cleveland's sole representative on the leaderboards. The position remains headlined by overall voting leader Jose Bautista (4,460,245) of the Blue Jays and Mike Trout (4,085,647) of the Angels.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on July 15 on FOX.
Quote to note
"Michael Brantley has to be as underrated a thrower as there is in the game. Every time he gets a chance to throw, he's right on the money."
-- Murphy, on Cleveland's left fielder
• Francona was encouraged by Tuesday's showing from first baseman Nick Swisher, who went 2-for-4 with a two-run double in Cleveland's 10-3 win against the Dodgers. On Wednesday, though, Swisher (.197 average through 65 games) was back on the bench without the designated hitter in play under the National League format.
"I thought he swung the bat very well [on Tuesday]," Francona said. "Swish has gone through a really tough time. I don't think he's ever really gone through this for this extended amount of time before, so it's not the easiest thing. I totally understand that. And I've tried to explain it to him a little bit, we're not running away from him."
• Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett had a pair of doubles against the Indians on Tuesday night. Beckett became the first pitcher to have two doubles in a game against Cleveland since Aug. 25, 1963, when Boston's Bob Heffner achieved the feat. Beckett became the first pitcher to have at least two extra-base hits against the Indians in an Interleague game.
• Indians center fielder Michael Bourn received a scheduled day off from starting on Wednesday, when the Dodgers had lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu on the mound. Francona felt it was an opportune time to give Bourn some rest, considering Cleveland also has a team off-day on Thursday.
• Triple-A Columbus first baseman Jesus Aguilar and catcher Roberto Perez were named to the International All-Star team on Wednesday. It was also announced that Columbus manager Chris Tremie and pitching coach Tony Arnold would be included on the International League's All-Star coaching staff.