Red Sox

Justin Masterson’s First Start a Gem, One Inning Aside

Justin Masterson was strong for five of his six innings Thursday. AP

Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson started strong. He finished stronger. It was in the middle of his outing against the Philadelphia Philies that things got a little bumpy.

Strikeout.

Single, walk, fielder’s choice, wild pitch, walk, single.

Strikeout.

That order of events saw Masterson surrender a pair of runs to the Phillies in the bottom of the third inning. It was his only ugly stretch in the Red Sox’s 6-2 win at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday night. The victory improved the team’s record to 2-1 early in the 2015 season.

Inducing groundouts with his sinker and generating whiffs with his slider, Masterson delivered a strong performance in his first start back in a Red Sox uniform since 2009. The right-hander retired seven consecutive batters to start the game before allowing that first single in the third. He later set down eight straight batters before being relieved by Craig Breslow to start the seventh. All told, he needed just 94 pitchers (64 strikes) to notch the quality start, striking out seven Phillies. He allowed just three hits and walked two. Along the way, he helped his own cause with two hits, including an RBI single in the third.

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The Phillies, projected to be among the worst MLB teams in 2015, may not be the strongest test, but Masterson created blueprint that should allow him to be a reliable presence in the middle of the rotation.

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