Swept in Cincinnati last week, the Indians came home and returned the favor.
Justin Masterson finished off the Reds — completely.
Masterson pitched a three-hitter for his first complete game this season and the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians capped off a three-game sweep with an 8-1 win 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 only run was unearned.
“He was just terrific,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He pounded the strike zone with that heavy sinker. It was going down like a bowling ball.”
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 the Indians, who played poorly while losing three in a row last week in southern Ohio, but have turned things around to move back atop their division.
“We’re a resilient team,” said Masterson, who became the first Cleveland pitcher to record a complete game at home since 2010. “I think we’ll be able to carry this momentum on the road and have a lot of fun with it.”
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 — a career-best 18 innings.
Masterson capped the ninth by getting the dangerous Joey Votta to look at strike three, an exclamation point on his dominant performance.
“There was a little fire there,” Masterson said. “I wanted to close it out.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker knew Masterson was capable of shutting down his team.
“When he’s on, he’s very tough,” Baker said, “and he was on tonight. His ball was moving everywhere.”
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.
He was grateful for the runs, but was just as pleased for his teammates.
“It’s nice for them, too,” he said. “It makes them feel good. I think sometimes they wear themselves out when they’re not scoring as many runs for me or anybody. It’s nice to have a game where we score quite a few and win it easily.”
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.
“It was as good as it gets,” Acta said.
Masterson 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.
“It’s encouraging to see it.” Acta said of Damon. “He got off to a very slow start and I know that a lot of people are going to keep looking at the batting average and stuff, but I can point out at least five games over the last 10 days where Johnny has had something to do with us winning the ballgame.”
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 — his shortest outing this season. 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.
NOTES — Votto has hit safely in nine straight games and 24 of 25. In that span, he’s batting .484 (44 of 91) with six homers and 17 RBI. ... Reds 2B Brandon Phillips’ hopes of being credited with an inside-the-park homer were denied by Major League Baseball. Phillips had appealed a ruling in Monday’s game, when he was given an RBI double on a ball that skipped past left fielder Damon, who was charged with a two-base error.
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