The Cleveland Indians may be thrilled to return home.
Justin Masterson may be the most relieved.
Coming off a lackluster road trip, the Indians hope Masterson can continue his home dominance in Friday night's series opener with the Washington Nationals .
Cleveland (32-33) opened a nine-game road trip by losing seven in a row before finding some solace in winning the last two, including Wednesday's 5-2 victory at Texas.
"It takes a little pressure off," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "You get a happy flight home, you get a day off, you get a little momentum on your side, you get to go home for a long homestand."
A nine-game homestand may be just what the Indians need to begin cutting into the 4 1/2-game gap on AL Central-leading Detroit. Hosting an NL foe may be even better since they've won seven in a row in Cleveland in interleague play, batting .341 with 15 homers while averaging 7.6 runs.
The pitching staff has been particularly outstanding in four home interleague wins this year, compiling a 1.25 ERA with the rotation getting each victory.
Masterson (8-5, 3.68 ERA) was responsible for one of them, allowing one run with seven strikeouts in six innings of a 5-2 win over Cincinnati on May 29. He's won three straight interleague starts at Progressive Field, yielding two runs with 25 strikeouts in 22 innings.
The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.36 ERA in seven home starts in 2013.
Masterson, who is making his first career start versus Washington, hasn't been nearly as effective on the road, compiling an 8.06 ERA while losing four starts in a row, two on Cleveland's recent trip.
Kipnis was one of the few bright spots for the Indians during that stretch, going 11 for 28 (.393) over the last seven games. He kept that surge going with his best performance yet Wednesday, getting three hits while coming a triple shy of the cycle and driving in a run.
Michael Brantley , who owns a .184 average with two RBIs over the past 11 road games, could be sparked with a return to Cleveland, where he is hitting .345 with 10 RBIs in his last eight contests.
The Nationals (33-32) are hoping for a similar result for Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.59), who is facing the Indians for the first time since Sept. 1, 2011, with Oakland. The left-hander is 5-0 with a 0.72 ERA in six career meetings, winning all four visits to Progressive Field.
He's needed some help from the lineup lately, going 0-1 with a 2.27 ERA while being backed by 11 total runs over his last six games.
The bats provided him two runs Saturday, while he allowed three in six innings of a 4-3 loss in 11 at Minnesota.
Washington, though, has since won four of five behind a .292 average after winning 5-4 at Colorado on Thursday. Still, the team is 5 1/2 games back of NL East-leading Atlanta.
"We just need to grind it out and stay where we're at and stay within striking distance," said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman , who hit his seventh homer Thursday. "And then hopefully once we get going or maybe this is the start of that, where we can have a good 20-game span. Then all of a sudden we're right back in it."
Ian Desmond is doing his part, batting .404 with 12 RBIs during a career-high 15-game hitting streak. He's been particularly impressive over the last five games, going 11 for 18 with eight RBIs after getting four hits and plating a run Thursday.
|June 03, 2013||Danny Espinosa||15-Day DL||Broken bone in right wrist|
|June 01, 2013||Stephen Strasburg||15-Day DL||Strained right latissimus dorsi|
|May 31, 2013||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Strained right lat|
|May 27, 2013||Bryce Harper||15-Day DL||Left knee bursitis|
|May 26, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left game - Sore left knee|
|May 24, 2013||Danny Espinosa||Day-to-Day||Broken bone in right wrist|
|June 04, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||15-Day DL||Right quadriceps strain|
|June 03, 2013||Zach McAllister||15-Day DL||Sprained right middle finger|
|June 03, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right quad|
|May 30, 2013||Ryan Raburn||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower right leg cramp|
|May 27, 2013||Chris Perez||15-Day DL||Right shoulder soreness|
|May 26, 2013||Chris Perez||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right shoulder discomfort|
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Drew Stubbs knew he was taking a chance. Luckily for the Cleveland Indians , his gamble paid off.
Stubbs slid home with the winning run on Jason Kipnis ' fielder's choice ground ball in the ninth inning to give the Cleveland Indians a 2-1 win over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
"Going on contact is a chance you take, but fortunately, I was able to get under the tag," Stubbs said.
With runners on second and third and one out, Kipnis sent a hard grounder to the right side. First baseman Adam LaRoche made a diving backhanded stop and fired to catcher Kurt Suzuki , but Stubbs beat the throw with a slide.
Suzuki, who perhaps had the best view of the winning play, gave Stubbs all the credit.
"He beat the throw. It's as simple as that," Suzuki said. "Stubbs is probably one of the fastest guys in the league, you know, and he just beat the throw."
Cleveland's speed, which also featured a perfect hit-and-run play earlier in the inning, played a big part in the rally as the Indians got back to .500 (33-33).
"You have to respect the speed," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It was a heck of a play by LaRoche, but fortunately, Stubbs went on contact, and his speed beat the throw."
Stubbs' one-out single off Fernando Abad (0-1) started the rally. As Stubbs broke off first, Michael Bourn punched a ground ball through the hole that opened when Steve Lombardozzi went to cover second base. Stubbs advanced to third before Bourn stole second.
Joe Smith (3-0) retired the side in order in the ninth for the Indians. Cleveland has won three in a row since breaking an eight-game losing streak.
"Losing eight or nine in a row is not the character of this team," Stubbs said. "We just needed a few breaks to go our way to turn things around."
Cleveland starter Justin Masterson and Washington's Gio Gonzalez both allowed one run in seven innings, but weren't involved in the decision.
Masterson's bases-loaded wild pitch in the third inning gave the Nationals their run. Gonzalez gave up a two-out homer to Ryan Raburn in the fourth.
The Indians loaded the bases in the sixth and eighth innings but failed to score.
Masterson, who held Washington to two hits, struck out 10 and walked four. He was removed from the game after throwing 113 pitches. The Indians managed only three hits off Gonzalez, who struck out eight and walked four. Three of the walks came with two outs in the sixth, but the left-hander retired Mark Reynolds on a popup to keep the game tied.
Gonzalez, who threw a season-high 127 pitches, is 5-0 with a 0.81 ERA in six career starts against the Indians. He is 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA in five career starts in Cleveland.
"(Gonzalez) was good, so was Masty," Francona said. "We saw (seven) pretty good innings of good pitching both ways."
Masterson remained dominant at Progressive Field. The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA in eight home starts this season.
"He's a great pitcher," Masterson said of Gonzalez. "He's their workhorse. Our guys kept saying, `Wait him out, wait him out.' And we finally got him out of the game."
Walks to Suzuki and Roger Bernadina along with Lombardozzi's single loaded the bases in the third. Masterson then bounced a 1-1 pitch in the dirt with Ryan Zimmerman batting to score Suzuki.
Raburn's two-out homer to right tied it in the fourth. Raburn, moved to the cleanup spot by Francona, is 7-for-13 with three home runs against Gonzalez.
Ian Desmond was 0-for-3 with a walk, ending his 15-game hitting streak.
The Indians were coming off a road trip in which they dropped the first seven games before winning the last two in Texas. Cleveland broke an eight-game losing streak on Tuesday.
NOTES: Francona said RHP Chris Perez (shoulder tendinitis) will "more likely than not" begin a minor league rehab assignment Sunday. Perez, a two-time All-Star, threw a bullpen session Friday. The Indians closer hasn't pitched in a game since May 26. Perez and his wife pleaded not guilty Monday to misdemeanor possession charges after marijuana was mailed to their home in their dog's name. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (strained right lat) is scheduled to come off the disabled list on Sunday to start against the Indians. ... Nationals manager Davey Johnson said OF Bryce Harper (left knee) might resume baseball activities next week. Harper was given a cortisone injection Monday and was told to rest the knee for a week. ... Francona said RHP Zach McAllister (sprained middle finger) might start playing catch in a few days. ... RHP Jordan Zimmerman (9-3) will start for Washington against LHP Scott Kazmir (3-4) on Saturday night.