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Masterson a hit when they miss

Cleveland righty gets former team

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By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / August 5, 2011

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Justin Masterson used four strikeouts to work his way into the record books last night. But it’s a record he’ll have to split 24 ways. And that’s just in the American League.

He fanned four Red Sox in the second inning last night in the Indians’ 7-3 win at Fenway Park, falling in line with names ranging from Walter Johnson, who did it a century ago, to A.J. Burnett, who did it two months ago.

It was the sixth time in Indians history a pitcher hung an extra K in an inning. Chuck Finley was the last to do it for the Tribe, in 2000, during a 2-1 win over the Rangers.

In Masterson’s case, he wasn’t exactly keeping count. After giving up two runs in the first inning, he was more focused on settling down. Josh Reddick led off the second inning and worked Masterson to a 2-and-2 count. Masterson whistled one by for the strikeout, but it sneaked under the mitt of catcher Carlos Santana and Reddick reached base on the wild pitch.

Masterson responded by sitting down Jason Varitek, Marco Scutaro, and Jacoby Ellsbury (all swinging).

“After the first inning giving up a couple runs, I wasn’t thinking about anything except I want to get people out,’’ Masterson sad.

He went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits. He threw 118 pitches and piled up nine strikeouts, matching a season high.

Traded by the Red Sox in 2009 in a package for catcher Victor Martinez, Masterson has had his fair share of success at Fenway, where he’s 10-2 in his career. In four starts against the Sox, he’s 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA and 21 strikeouts.

“Just like any good team you’re facing, they’re a great team, have a great offense,’’ Masterson said. “It’s always nice to get a quality win against them. It was great to go out there and put up a decent outing and set up our team for a chance to win.’’

After the first inning, his only other blemish was a fastball to Reddick in the fourth that was supposed to be away. It ran in and off the plate.

“He still hit it out,’’ Masterson said, laughing it off.

It was a “mix-and-match’’ night on the mound. Masterson rummaged through his bag for a different strikeout pitch.

“The four-seamer was keeping me in some decent counts,’’ he said. “A slider here was giving some good opportunities. I mixed in one changeup or two. That was pretty consistent for the one time I threw it. But it was just kind of a random mix of everything. There was nothing overly consistent.’’

Masterson upped his record to 9-7 and pushed his innings total to 157 1/3, the seventh most in the American League.

“He’s been pretty consistent,’’ said Indians manager Manny Acta. “His velocity’s been up from Pitch 1 to the last one. He’s pretty confident right now. He doesn’t go through that many breaking pitches right now and everybody knows it. He’s tough to hit when he’s sinking that ball and elevating that four-seam fastball at 96, 97. He’s in a very good groove right now.’’

The Indians have leaned on the 26-year-old to be the stopper in their rotation, but at the trade deadline acquired Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez to give them another quality arm.

“Right now, our main guy has been Justin Masterson,’’ Acta said. “He’s a guy that from now on and for a while now we’ve been trying to keep him on the five-day routine because he’s the guy that we want to see out there every five days.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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