Though the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays have been competitive, they both know their play must improve in order to remain postseason contenders.
That begins Friday night when the Indians look to continue their recent road success against the Blue Jays.
Cleveland (44-41), which spent a good portion of the first half leading the AL Central, is three games behind first-place Chicago in the division and one out of the second wild card spot.
"I'm satisfied where we stand, but we must play better in the second half," general manager Chris Antonetti said.
Last July 15, the Indians led the Central by one game but finished 31-40. The team believes the experience of falling short might actually help in 2012.
"We know what that feeling is like," scheduled starter Justin Masterson (5-8, 4.40 ERA) said. "We don't have to be in first place now. We have to be in first place at the end."
Perez's run of 24 straight converted save chances ended Sunday when he allowed three runs in the ninth inning of a 7-6 loss to Tampa Bay.
Cabrera is tied for the team lead with 11 home runs and has 42 RBIs but is 4 for 27 in his last seven games. Though he went 3 for 15 with a homer while Cleveland lost two of three at home to Toronto to open the season, Cabrera is a lifetime .328 hitter at Rogers Centre.
Masterson, 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three starts against the Blue Jays, allowed a solo homer to All-Star Jose Bautista and one other hit while striking out 10 over eight innings of a 7-4, 16-inning season-opening loss to Toronto on April 5.
The right-hander hopes to bounce back after he gave up eight runs and walked four in 4 1-3 innings of a 10-3 loss to the Rays last Friday.
Cleveland, which snapped a five-game home skid to the Blue Jays (43-43) with a 4-3 win April 8, has won four of five at Toronto.
Despite injuries to three starting pitchers, the Blue Jays managed to play .500 baseball but are tied for last in the AL East, 9 1/2 games behind New York.
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 23rd home run to help Toronto snap a three-game skid with an 11-9 win at Chicago on Sunday. Encarnacion, who signed a new three-year contract this week, is tied for fourth in the AL in home runs, is fifth in slugging (.565) and seventh in RBIs (58).
"We've really seen him grow as a player," said general manager Alex Anthopoulos about the versatile eighth-year veteran.
He's hit .387 (12 for 31) in his last seven games versus Cleveland.
Tied for the major league lead with 27 homers, Bautista is batting .373 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in his last 11 against the Indians.
Scheduled starter Ricky Romero (8-4, 5.22) is 0-3 with a 10.80 ERA while losing three straight starts but yielded two runs in six innings of a 2-0 loss at Chicago on Saturday.
"I'm as disappointed as anyone in my first half," the left-hander said. "You learn from moments like this. I know 100 percent in my mind that it's gonna make me better."
Romero, 2-1 with a 5.79 ERA in four starts against the Indians, allowed four runs in five innings of the season-opening loss at Cleveland.
|June 30, 2012||Lonnie Chisenhall||15-Day DL||Fractured right ulna - out 4-6 weeks|
|June 29, 2012||Lonnie Chisenhall||Day-to-Day||Fractured right ulna - out 4-6 weeks|
|June 05, 2012||Jose Lopez||Day-to-Day||Sore lower back|
|May 27, 2012||Jack Hannahan||15-Day DL||Strained left calf|
|May 27, 2012||Jack Hannahan||15-Day DL||Strained left calf|
|May 26, 2012||Carlos Santana||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|July 09, 2012||Luis Perez||Day-to-Day||Torn ligament in left elbow|
|July 09, 2012||Luis Perez||60-Day DL||Torn ligament in left elbow|
|July 07, 2012||Brett Lawrie||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back tightness|
|June 25, 2012||Robert Coello||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|June 16, 2012||Drew Hutchison||60-Day DL||Right UCL sprain|
|June 14, 2012||Kyle Drabek||15-Day DL||Sprained right elbow ligament|
TORONTO (AP) -- Justin Masterson and Chris Perez returned from the All-Star break rested and refreshed, ready to wipe away the bad memories of their most recent outings.
Both Cleveland pitchers did an excellent job of that.
Masterson pitched seven sharp innings, Travis Hafner homered and the Indians beat the Toronto Blue Jays 1-0 Friday night.
"An excellent pitching performance," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Masterson was impressive. He established his fastball the whole game, was able to throw it to both sides of the plate. He did a magnificent job."
Vinnie Pestano worked the eighth and All-Star closer Perez finished for his 25th save in 27 chances save as the Indians wrapped up their sixth shutout of the season.
"I was sharp tonight, for sure," Perez said. "The slider was coming out good."
Hafner provided the only run Cleveland would need when he led off the second with a towering drive to right, his eighth.
"It was high and just kept on going," Masterson said of Hafner's booming shot. "That was pretty impressive. He's a big boy."
The Indians put runners at second and third in the fourth when Carlos Santana walked and Michael Brantley doubled, but Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero struck out Los Marson and got Johnny Damon to ground out.
Masterson (6-8) was hit hard in his final start before the All-Star break, allowing eight runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings on July 6 in a loss to Tampa Bay, an outing that raised his ERA by nearly half a run. But the right-hander bounced back strong against the Blue Jays, giving up just five hits, all singles. He walked one and struck out five.
"It was good that he got back on the horse again and had a good outing against a good hitting ballclub," Acta said.
Masterson said spending the All-Star break at home helped him put the Tampa Bay performance out of his head.
"I don't think I thought about baseball at all," he said. "I maybe caught a hair of some of the All-Star festivities but it was just nice to relax, just sit back and kind of do your own thing. I had a nice date night with my wife, ate at a little Italian restaurant. It was cool."
Toronto didn't put a runner in scoring position until the fifth, when Yunel Escobar reached on a two-out infield single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Kelly Johnson ended the inning by grounding out.
The Blue Jays put two runners on in the seventh, when Edwin Encarnacion walked and Adam Lind singled, but Masterson escaped by striking out Escobar looking and getting Johnson to ground into a fielder's choice.
Like Masterson, Perez was eager to wipe away the memory of his most recent outing, a blown save against Tampa Bay in the final game before the break that snapped his streak of 24 straight saves. His only other blown save came opening day, when the Blue Jays rallied in the ninth to deny Masterson a victory, finally winning in 16 innings.
"The way I look at it is, Sunday was an aberration," Perez said. "I blew a save; it happens. I didn't want to blow another one for him like I did on opening day."
Colby Rasmus led off the ninth with a drive to center, but Brantley made the catch. Jose Bautista grounded out and Perez fanned Encarnacion to close it out.
"I thought that first one (by Rasmus) was out of here but luckily we've got a big enough yard to keep it in," Perez said.
Romero (8-5), who came in 0-3 with a 10.80 ERA in his past three starts, has not won since June 22 at Miami. He allowed one run and six hits in six innings, walked two and struck out six.
"Any time you lose it's frustrating, whether you lose 10-0 or 1-0," Romero said. "I've always said I'm a sore loser. I hate losing."
The Blue Jays have scored just three runs in Romero's past three starts, and have not scored in his past 13 innings.
NOTES: Blue Jays RHP Brandon Morrow (strained left oblique) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Friday, his first since his June 11 injury. Morrow, who will throw another bullpen Monday, is not expected back before mid-August. ... Toronto RHP Sergio Santos (shoulder) threw a bullpen at Toronto's spring facility in Dunedin, Fla. on Thursday. Santos, out since April 21, will throw another bullpen Saturday. ... Toronto RHP Drew Hutchison (elbow) is due to resume throwing on July 23, manager John Farrell said. Hutchison was injured June 15. ... The Blue Jays purchased the contract of Double-A LHP Aaron Loup and placed LHP Luis Perez (elbow) on the 60-day DL, retroactive to July 9. ... Friday was Cleveland OF Shin-Soo Choo's 30th birthday. ... Indians 2B Jason Kipnis was caught stealing in the sixth, snapping a streak of 18 successful stolen base attempts. ... This was Cleveland's first 1-0 road win on a solo homer since May 26, 1992 at Oakland, when Mark Lewis went deep for the Indians.