Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson attempts to adjust, results 'close, but not close enough'

May 06, 2015 - 8:46 pm

Justin Masterson needs to be more of a ferris wheel instead of a carousel when it comes to pitching. That's how the Red Sox right-hander put it after his sixth start of the year, and his first loss, as the team dropped a 5-3 contest to the Rays on Wednesday night. Following three innings of one-run ball, the game started to get away from Masterson. In the first at-bat of the fourth inning, he gave up a home run to Evan Longoria. Then he issued a pair of walks, both on just four pitches. With the bases loaded, Masterson and Co. were able to find a way out of the inning courtesy of a double play. The only thing that took a more significant hit than the scoreboard was his pitch count. The fifth inning was similar, but did not tip in favor of the Sox as much as the previous one had. Masterson surrendered another couple of walks and a couple of base hits, including a broken-bat single that scored two runs. What had been working well in the early goings of the game, like forcing players into hitting double-play balls, was proving difficult moving forward. "The first part was great," he said. "First three innings. The fourth, pitched through it, and fifth was just kind of the culmination of I just couldn't make the adjustment out there to get back into throwing strikes. Close, but not close enough." Masterson said he felt different, that something was off, but it wasn't something he had necessarily had a problem with before. "I just felt like I was rotating more ..." he said. "Which is never a good thing, when I'm already a rotational guy, to add more rotation to it is not good, but it's something I hadn't dealt with yet this year, so at least we're not repeating what we've been doing. "A little bit there I felt like I was in the re-filming of Major League. I could hear 'Ball four, ball eight, ball 12, tried the corner and missed!'" Manager John Farrell said Masterson's trouble could have something to do with the fact that he "gets a little bit long" at times. "He's got long leverage to begin with," Farrell said. "He'll start to leak away from the mound. The timing with his delivery, he can get a little spread out and that is where you start to see the misfires. Yanked some balls down and in to lefties. The sinker, the fastballs stay up to lefties and he starts to work a little east and west than staying through the strike zone." Even as the fifth inning slipped away from the righty, Masterson tried to stay with it, sticking to his checkpoints along the way, which include staying back, not rushing and trying to get the ball out in front. "[They] were, for me tonight, things I was trying to do, but it wasn't correcting the issues that were taking place," he said. "So then it's like, alright well, just try and be an athlete, try and be an athlete, throw a ball in there and do your thing, and it had a lot of movement on top of it so it was like ... yeah, we're just throwing it in there, but the ball's moving like crazy, so how do we kind of reel that in? And that's, again, what turned into four runs instead of getting out of it with nothing. "We make the adjustment just a little bit, I think we get out of there," he added. "Just kind of like we did in the fourth inning. We kind of snuck out of what could have been really bad, but we got out of it and I just couldn't make that adjustment." The outing marked Masterson's second of the year in which he pitched fewer than five innings and his third in which he tossed fewer than six. His half dozen walks were also a season-high, and the end result bumped his ERA for the year up to 5.18. Regardless of what the reasoning was, this isn't the first time that Masterson has been less than successful against Tampa Bay. Before Wednesday, he had an ERA of 6.83 against the Rays, his worst among AL East teams. In 59 1/3 innings pitched, Masterson allowed 45 earned runs and gave up 67 hits, 20 of which had gone for extra bases. He owned a 2-7 record against them, which now falls to 2-8, and a 1.820 WHIP, having allowed Tampa to hit .291/.404/.474 when he was on the mound. Still, Masterson was loath to say that there is something about the Rays intrinsically that makes it harder for him to pitch against them. "In 2013 I had a good year against them, started getting better but a lot of times, I get behind the counts," he said. "Get behind the counts, coming in with just the fastball, and then whether it's hard-hit balls or not, something's going in there. "Most of the time it's good job throwing strikes, have success, you don't, especially with this team, you don't do well, and even tonight we weren't throwing strikes real well but we were able to almost manage it," Masterson added. "You even get a broken bat a little bit lower, I mean shoot, it could have been some great stuff, but oh well."