May 15, 2012
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND — Justin Masterson pitched a three-hitter for his first complete game this season and the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians finished a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds with an 8-1 victory Wednesday night.
Masterson (4-6) took a shutout into the eighth before the Reds ended the right-hander’s streak of consecutive scoreless innings at 18.
He did not walk a batter and struck out nine, including the side in the ninth, for his fourth career complete game. Cincinnati’s run was unearned.
Asdrubal Cabrera hit a three-run homer and Johnny Damon hit a two-run shot in the fifth inning off Bronson Arroyo (3-5). Lonnie Chisenhall added three RBIs for Cleveland.
After losing three straight in Cincinnati last week, the Indians returned the favor on the Reds, who entered the series on a six-game winning streak.
It was the first time the Reds and Indians had faced each other as first-place teams since 1999, and Masterson made sure Cleveland came out on top.
The Reds did not get a runner to second against Masterson until the eighth. Cabrera booted Jay Bruce’s leadoff grounder to shortstop and Todd Frazier doubled with one out. Willie Harris followed with an RBI groundout, the first run given up by Masterson since June 9 in St. Louis.
Masterson capped the ninth by Joey Votta to look at the strike three.
Masterson’s record may not show it, but he’s been one of Cleveland’s most consistent starters.
This was his fourth straight quality outing, and for a change, the Indians gave him some run support. He had received two or fewer runs in his previous eight starts and the Indians were averaging just 2.95 runs per nine innings for him, the worst support in the AL and fourth-lowest in the majors.
Other than hitting Chris Heisey with a pitch in the first inning, Masterson was in complete control of the Reds.
He didn’t give up a hit until the fourth when Heisey pulled a single down the third-base line past Jack Hannahan, who was playing up on the infield grass and couldn’t reach it with a backhand dive. Votto singled in the seventh and Frazier’s double were all Cincinnati could muster against Masterson.
He got some defensive help when catcher Lou Marson gunned down Heisey in the fourth and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo raced back to snag Scott Rolen’s drive in the fifth.
After letting Arroyo off the hook in the first three innings, the Indians tagged him for five runs in the fourth as Damon and Cabrera homered.
Damon, who came in batting just .190 but has been making contributions on and off the field, connected for his third homer to make it 2-0.
Casey Kotchman singled with one out before the 38-year-old Damon drove a 2-2 pitch over the wall in right. Damon, who missed all of training camp before signing with the Indians on April 17, has been showing signs of busting out of a prolonged slump. He’s batting .295 (13 for 44) in his past 16 games.
Chisenhall walked for the first time in 57 at-bats this season, and Choo drew a two-out walk to bring up Cabrera, whose two-run, walk-off homer against closer Aroldis Chapman won Tuesday’s game. Cabrera fell behind 0-2 before hitting his eighth homer, a shot over the wall in right-center.
Arroyo was charged with five runs and eight hits in four innings. The right-hander has just one win in his last eight starts.
The Indians went up 8-0 in the seventh when they loaded the bases off Alfredo Simon and Chisenhall laced a double into the right-field corner.