Created on Saturday, 06 July 2013 Written by TOM WITHERS,AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Justin Masterson tried to dismiss his rough outing with a joke about shaving.
That delivery was off, too.
Masterson was rocked by Detroit's power-packed lineup for six runs in less than five innings Friday night and the Indians disappointed a rare sellout crowd with a 7-0 loss to the first-place Tigers, who won their sixth straight over Cleveland.
Masterson (10-7) may be the Indians' ace, but he certainly didn't pitch like one in the opener of the four-game series. The Indians lost their third straight and fell 2½ games behind the Tigers in the AL Central.
Afterward, the big right-hander attempted some humor in explaining what went wrong.
His comedy was also off the mark.
"I was just flying open all day," he said. "I was talking with some of the guys. In my last start I had a little bit of a beard going on and I shaved it for this one and my head was a little bit lighter so it was kind of pulling off to the side. So I have to re-evaluate the next time I shave. I probably shouldn't have shaved."
Masterson was coming off a shutout in his previous outing against the Chicago White Sox, but Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez and Ramon Santiago drove in three runs apiece as Detroit improved to 7-2 against Cleveland this season.
Rick Porcello (5-6) allowed five hits and was never really threatened until Carlos Santana flied out to the warning track in center field to end the sixth. The right-hander set the tone for the Tigers, who dominated the opener of the wraparound series. With their fourth straight win, Detroit spoiled a big night for the Indians, who returned from an 11-game road trip to just their second sellout crowd at Progressive Field this season.
About the only bright spot for Cleveland was Jason Kipnis pushing his hitting streak to 16 games. That, and fans got to scarf down $1 hot dogs and see some postgame fireworks.
Despite the loss, Masterson was confident the Indians would be able to shake it off and recover. It's what they've done all season.
"It's always disappointing when you lose," said Masterson, who fell to 6-2 at home. "In perspective, for us as a team as we go through this, we still got a lot of baseball so I think we're excited to get some learning curves here and there and be able to move on to the next one."
The matchup between Masterson, a probable All-Star, and Porcello seemed to favor the Indians.
However, Detroit's No. 5 starter, who had lost his three previous starts and is an afterthought on a staff with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, silenced the Indians and a sedated a crowd of 40,167 that came out to see if this Cleveland team was ready to challenge the defending division champs.
At least on this night, Porcello and the Tigers were too much for the Indians, who are just 18-29 against teams with winning records.
"His mound presence tonight, with a packed house, on the road and a team right there with you, was the best I've seen," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Before the game, Leyland and Cleveland's Terry Francona both dismissed the idea that this four-game set was critical.
"I don't really pay that much attention to the standings until September," Leyland said. "If this was a four-game series in September, I'd say it's probably a big series but I would not say that on July 5."
Porcello took a three-hitter into the sixth when Kipnis and Nick Swisher singled with one out. Porcello could have ended the inning with a double play, but his throw to second was high, allowing Michael Brantley to reach on a fielder's choice.
Santana followed with a drive to deep center that Austin Jackson ran down a few feet short of the wall, ending Cleveland's best threat.
Peralta's two-run double in the fifth put Detroit ahead 6-0 and chased Masterson, who lasted a season-low 4 2-3 innings.
Andy Dirks walked with one out and moved up on a wild pitch before Masterson retired Miguel Cabrera on a grounder for the second out. However, Prince Fielder drew a four-pitch walk and Martinez followed with an RBI single to make it 4-0.
Up came Peralta, who had gone just 1 of 17 (.059) with zero RBIs in his career against Masterson. But he lined a 1-0 pitch into the gap in right-center to easily score Fielder and Martinez, the Tigers' two slowest runners.
"When the sinker is up, anyone can hit it," Masterson said. "It doesn't matter what the numbers are."
NOTES: Kipnis also has reached base safely in 36 games in a row. ... Indians 3B/DH Mark Reynolds is in a 0-for-19 slump and has struck out nine times in his last 14 at-bats. ... Following the game, the Indians recalled RHP Carlos Carrasco to start Saturday's game against Tigers RHP Anibal Sanchez, who was activated from the disabled list with a strained shoulder. ... To make room for Carrasco, the Indians optioned reliever Joe Martinez to Triple-A Columbus. Francona liked what Martinez did during his time with the Indians and was confident he will be back. ... ... Indians RHP Zach McAllister threw a 60-pitch bullpen session, an important step in his recovery from a sprained right middle finger. "This was a big one for me," said McAllister, who plans to throw breaking balls off flat ground Saturday and pitch three innings to minor leaguers Monday.