The streaky Boston Red Sox should have known better.
Once they let Justin Masterson get on a roll, they couldn’t stop him.
The Red Sox failed to take advantage of early wildness by Cleveland’s starter, who settled in and blanked them for seven innings in leading the Indians to a 3-2 win, ending Boston’s seven-game winning streak on Monday night.
Masterson (3-4) walked four in the first three innings, but threw 25 consecutive strikes in one stretch and won for the first time in five starts.
He allowed just three singles, struck out a season-high 10 and retired 12 of his last 13 batters.
“We missed a couple opportunities early on and then you give credit to a guy that is a darn good pitcher in his own right,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “From the fourth through the seventh there was nothing to be had.”
Masterson walked two in the first, when the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs. Jonny Gomes got ahead in the count 3-0 before Masterson battled back and struck him out looking at a low fastball.
“We were kind of in the driver’s seat, knowing that Masterson comes in leading the league in walks,” Farrell said. “It starts to play out in the first inning. He makes a quality 3-2 pitch to the bottom of the zone to end the threat. And then like I said, it seemed like something clicked and he settled in well.”
Boston missed a chance to make some unusual history. According to Elias Sports Bureau in information provided by the Red Sox, no team had ever followed a 10-game losing streak with an eight-game winning streak.
Masterson denied Boston the peculiar record.
“His ball moves so much, it’s so hard to square up,” said A.J. Pierzynski, who grounded into double plays to end the third and sixth. “I think that’s the biggest problem. That’s also why he walks a lot of guys, because it’s so hard for him to control it at times. But he really settled in there in the middle innings. When he’s locating his ball, he’s tough as they come. We’ve seen that. I’ve seen that obviously facing him for a lot of years.”
Lonnie Chisenhall hit a two-run single in the first off John Lackey (6-4), and the Indians won their fourth straight.
Xander Bogaerts hit a two-run homer in the Boston eighth off Bryan Shaw to bring the Red Sox to 3-2. But left-hander Marc Rzepczynski retired David Ortiz for the final out in the inning, and Cody Allen worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his fourth save.
Cleveland improved to an AL-best 19-11 at home.
Masterson was two different pitchers against the Red Sox.
His wildness had him flirting with danger in the first and third innings, but he managed to pitch out of trouble both times. Masterson needed 61 pitches to get the first nine outs, but he struck out the side in the fourth on just nine pitches.
Masterson retired eight in a row before Ortiz singled through Cleveland’s shift in the sixth. Masterson then induced Pierzynski to hit into his second inning-ending double play.
Lackey allowed three runs and eight hits. He walked just two, but both scored in the first when Chisenhall placed his single inside the left-field line.
“I put myself in that situation,” Lackey said. “That’s the bottom line, I can’t walk those two guys. I don’t like walking two guys in a game, much less an inning. It ended up getting me.”
Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew went 0 for 2 with a walk in his season debut. He re-signed with Boston as a free agent last month.
Boston outfielder Grady Sizemore was hitless in four at-bats — he popped up for the final out — in his return to Cleveland. Sizemore was a three-time All-Star in nearly eight seasons with the Indians.
NOTES: Lackey has thrown at least five innings in a career-best 36 consecutive starts, tied for the second-longest active streak in the AL. … The last time the Red Sox had three strikeouts on nine pitches was in 1997, when Toronto’s Roger Clemens did it to them at Fenway Park. … Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz (sprained left knee) is with the team and threw a bullpen session. He will throw another Wednesday before a simulated game on Saturday.