The Cleveland Indians avoided their longest losing streak of the season by busting out of their offensive slump.
Masterson takes the mound for the Indians on Sunday as they and the Tampa Bay Rays play the deciding contest of their three-game set at Tropicana Field.
The Indians (31-18) beat the Rays 7-3 on Saturday, ending a three-game skid and matching their offensive output from the previous four games combined.
“He’s still evolving as a player and maturing overall; he’s only 25 years old,” manager Manny Acta told the team’s official website.
“Grady hasn’t played in two weeks so he has to get his timing down a little bit,” Acta said. “He’ll be (batting down in the lineup) for a few days until he gets his timing down.”
Masterson (5-2, 2.50 ERA) has felt the brunt of the Indians’ recent offensive woes.
After winning his first five starts, Masterson has gone 0-2 with a 2.80 ERA while receiving minimal run support. Since scoring four runs over Masterson’s 6 2-3 innings in his last victory April 26, Cleveland has totaled four runs for the right-hander in five May starts spanning 35 1-3 innings.
He allowed two runs over 7 2-3 innings Monday against Boston and left trailing, before Cleveland rallied for a 3-2 victory.
Masterson will need plenty of support if he pitches against the Rays the way he has in the past. He allowed a season-high five runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-4 loss May 12, falling to 1-4 with a 6.62 ERA in six career starts versus Tampa Bay.
Rays manager Joe Maddon batted struggling slugger Evan Longoria(notes) at the top of the order Saturday in an attempt to help him break out of a 3 for 25 slump. Longoria responded by going 2 for 4 with a solo homer.
“That was definitely a confidence boost,” said Longoria, who typically bats third or fourth but may lead off again Sunday. “Joe usually presses the right buttons.”
Hellickson had won four straight starts before falling 6-3 to Detroit on Monday. The right-hander allowed two runs through 6 1-3 innings, but got charged with the loss after receiving a lone run of support - a rarity for a pitcher receiving a major league-high 7.85 runs per nine innings from his offense on the season.
Hellickson has never faced the Indians.
Tampa Bay has won three of five meetings with Cleveland entering this contest, which will conclude the season series.