CLEVELAND - Allowing a home run to a hitter in an slump approaching a major league record is a strong indication a pitcher isn't at the top of his game.
That was the case for Indians starter Justin Masterson in Friday night's 10-3 loss to Tampa Bay.
Masterson gave up a two-run homer to Luke Scott - breaking an 0-for-41 skid for the Rays' designated hitter - in the fifth inning and the Indians' three-game winning streak ended with a thud.
The Associated Press
The Indians’ Shin-Soo Choo catches a fly ball hit by Tampa Bay’s Will Rhymes in the second inning Friday night at Progressive Field. The Rays won, 10-3.
Scott struck out his first two times up, moving within five at-bats of the major league record for non-pitchers, but his futility ended with his 10th homer to give the Rays a 6-2 lead and spark their six-run rally.
Masterson found some humor in helping Scott avoid history.
"I was just trying to be friendly," Masterson said. "He was struggling quite a bit, coming close to a record. I figured, what the heck, let's give him an opportunity to get out of that. He's a good guy."
After B.J. Upton singled with one out, Scott drove the first pitch he saw to center. He waited almost breathlessly for the towering shot to land. As it did, Michael Brantley tried to make a leaping catch at the wall. Scott slowed between first and second and, when Brantley came down without the ball, continued his jog around the bases. He kept running to the dugout, where he received happy high-fives from teammates.
"I gave him a nice pitch to hit," Masterson said. "Actually I didn't even think he got it. Michael Brantley almost caught it. He was about an inch away."
Eugenio Velez went 46 consecutive hitless at bats in 2010-11 while playing for the Giants and Dodgers, but Scott no longer has to worry about matching that streak.
"I just felt relieved," Scott said. "I didn't think I got it all. I hit it high and most home runs have to be hit at a lower angle."
Scott's hitless streak was the longest in franchise history, but he's a career .421 hitter (8 for 19) with seven RBIs against Masterson.
Masterson's night wasn't going very well before the fifth. He allowed a two-run homer to Ben Zobrist in the first and a two-run single in the fourth to Jose Lobaton, who was in a 1-for-18 skid.
Masterson allowed eight runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. He walked four, threw two wild pitches, struck out seven and threw 102 pitches.
"I probably should have just thrown left-handed," he said after falling to 1-6 with an 11.40 ERA in eight career starts against the Rays.