CLEVELAND (AP) - Allowing a home run to a hitter in an slump that's approaching a major league record is a strong indication a pitcher isn't at the top of his game.
That was the case for Indians starter Justin Masterson in Friday night's 10-3 loss to Tampa Bay.
Masterson gave up a two-run homer to Luke Scott - breaking an 0-for-41 skid for the Rays' designated hitter - in the fifth inning and the Indians' three-game winning streak ended with a thud.
Scott struck out his first two times up, moving within five at_bats of the major league record for non-pitchers, but his futility ended with his 10th homer of the season that gave the Rays a 6-2 lead and sparked their six-run rally.
Masterson, Cleveland's most consistent starter the last month, was able to find some humor in helping Scott avoid history.
``I was just trying to be friendly,' said Masterson (5-8). ``He was struggling quite a bit, coming close to a record. I figured, what the heck, let's give him an opportunity to get out of that. He's a good guy.'
After B.J. Upton singled with one out, Scott drove the first pitch he saw to center. He waited almost breathlessly for the towering shot to land. As it did, Michael Brantley tried to make a leaping catch at the wall. Scott slowed between first and second and, when Brantley came down without the ball, continued his jog around the bases. He kept running to the dugout, where he received happy high-fives from teammates.
``I gave him a nice pitch to hit,' Masterson said. ``Actually I didn't even think he got it. Michael Brantley almost caught it. He was about an inch away.'
Eugenio Velez went 46 consecutive hitless at bats in 2010-11 while playing for the Giants and Dodgers, but Scott no longer has to worry about matching that streak.
``I just felt relieved,' Scott said. ``I didn't think I got it all. I hit it high and most home runs have to be hit at a lower angle.'
Scott's hitless streak was the longest in franchise history, but he's a career .421 hitter (8 for 19) with seven RBIs against Masterson.
Masterson's night wasn't going very well before the fifth. He allowed a two-run homer to Ben Zobrist in the first and a two-run single in the fourth to Jose Lobaton, who was in a 1-for-18 skid.
Masterson allowed eight runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings. He walked four, threw two wild pitches, struck out seven and threw 102 pitches.
``I probably should have just thrown left-handed,' he said after falling to 1-6 with an 11.40 ERA in eight career starts against the Rays.
Masterson allowed one more earned run than he yielded over his previous five starts and 36 innings.
``He's been pitching as good as anybody,' Indians manager Manny Acta said. ``He had a rough one, but it will happen to the best of them.'
Tampa Bay had 13 hits and stranded 10 runners.
``We didn't pitch today at all,' Acta said. ``It wasn't a very good performance.'
``It was good for the Rays, not so much for the Tribe,' Masterson said.
Desmond Jennings started Masterson's trouble by lining the first pitch of the game into center field for a single. Zobrist hit a 3-0 pitch to right. The Indians tied the game in the bottom of the inning against Alex Cobb (4-5), but missed out on a chance to take the lead. Singles by Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera and a walk to Jason Kipnis loaded the bases, but Travis Hafner bounced into a double play that scored a run.
Cabrera broke down the line at third with Carlos Santana batting, forcing Cobb to commit a balk.
``We let him off the hook in the first,' Acta said. ``We had our opportunity. We didn't take advantage of it, but you have to give him credit.'
Tampa Bay went ahead for good in the third on Lobaton's single up the middle with the bases loaded and two outs.
Hafner was hitless in four at_bats, hitting into two double plays and striking out twice.
NOTES: The Indians commemorated the 65th anniversary of Larry Doby breaking the AL's color barrier in 1947 on Friday. The team unveiled street signs on Larry Doby Way - formerly known as Eagle Ave. - which runs adjacent to Progressive Field. Doby made his debut less than three months after Jackie Robinson played his first game for Brooklyn. Larry Doby Jr. and Doby's former teammate, Jim ``Mudcat' Grant, threw out the first pitches before the game. ... OF Shelley Duncan was activated from the paternity list and INF Jason Donald was optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Duncan missed two games while on the paternity list to be with wife Elyse, who delivered twin boys William and Walker on Thursday. ... The series continues Saturday when Ubaldo Jimenez faces Matt Moore.
The Associated Press News Service
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