On the mound for the Red Sox: Justin Masterson. On the mound for the Rays: Chris Archer. It was a matchup of one of the American League's worst, and one of the American League's best, and in the end, it was Justin Masterson and his 6.37 ERA (turned 5.58) that came out on top.
The problem for Justin Masterson throughout this season has been that movement is about all he has. His velocity has left him, and his control has always been inconsistent at best, leaving only his movement to him. That he can show in spades, as he did today. But only one of those three components does not generally a major league pitcher make. And without his velocity, Masterson can't force batters to guess. They can sit, wait, and take what comes to them.
Today, though, Justin Masterson threw 54 of his 84 pitches for strikes. And even if he's not throwing hard, when your pitches are moving and they're moving within the strike zone, oftentimes speed is just a luxury--helpful, but unnecessary.
The Rays did get some hits. A pair in the first proved fruitless with Blake Swihart wiping out Asdrubal Cabrera trying to steal second. Another pair in the fifth did turn into a run, but only with a passed ball in between, leaving the run unearned for Masterson. After that, with Masterson fresh off the DL with 84 pitches on his arm, John Farrell chose to take his winnings and run to the bullpen.
He did so with a healthy lead, too, with Chris Archer proving very vulnerable to the long ball indeed Sunday afternoon. Pablo Sandoval was the first to get to him, going to the opposite field on a changeup that stayed high over the outside part of the plate. Two batters (and an ejection of Mike Napoli) later, Alejandro De Aza joined the club by taking another changeup, this time knee-high and dead-center, and hooking it into the stands in right to make it 2-0 for the Red Sox after two.
In the fourth, Archer's secondary offerings again betrayed him, but this time it was the slider coming back across the plate to David Ortiz. Boston's designated hitter may not be hitting much, but he's still leaving the park at a decent rate, crushing a two-run shot this time right around where De Aza hit his, just quite a few rows deeper.
The Sox would get a fifth run in the sixth when Xander Bogaerts doubled and was knocked in by Pablo Sandoval on a sacrifice fly that was nearly his second shot of the night.
The insurance would keep the game a bit more comfortable after a rough outing from Jonathan Aro resulted in two doubles and two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but proved unnecessary with Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara turning in scoreless eighth and ninth innings.