The second time’s the charm.
After a lackluster but promising spring training debut from Justin Masterson — he allowed one unearned run on one hit and two walks over two innings in a 5-3 loss to the Miami Marlins last week — the Boston Red Sox starter turned in a performance to call home about Tuesday. The right-hander pitched three perfect innings in a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, fanning four of the nine batters he faced.
“I was able to throw strikes and be in the zone,” Masterson said, per MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “Just continued progress of where we’ve been. I was able to repeat my delivery for the most part and throw the ball over the plate.”
While spring training performances mean little in the grand scheme of things — the Rays had a split squad Tuesday, so their lineup was far from the real deal — it is encouraging to see a performance like this from Masterson. The 29-year-old struggled mightily last season, finishing 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA between the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals.
“I think with each outing Justin is making, we’re seeing more sink to his fastball,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said, per ESPN. “The ability to make an adjustment more readily from pitch to pitch. And just a pitcher who is becoming more aggressive.
“But with each bullpen, each outing that he makes I think he’s gaining confidence,” Farrell added.
In other Red Sox news:
— Boston’s win over Tampa Bay is its fifth in a row this spring after the team dropped the first two games. The Red Sox will try to continue the streak Wednesday against the New York Yankees.
— Closer Koji Uehara followed Masterson, taking the mound in the fourth inning. He surrendered a leadoff double but quickly rebounded, sitting down the next three Rays, including two by way of the K.
— Third baseman Garin Cecchini showed a little offensive spark after coming in for Hanley Ramirez, sending a two-RBI double to center field to give the Red Sox a 4-0 lead in the seventh.
— Top prospect Henry Owens had a solid outing, too, tossing two perfect innings with two strikeouts.
— Right fielder Shane Victorino was back in the lineup after being shut down for two games with “general soreness.” He played four innings, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout.
— The Rays’ one run came in the eighth with lefty reliever Dana Eveland on the mound for the Red Sox. Third baseman Logan Forsythe tripled and scored on a passed ball for Tampa Bay.
Thumbnail photo via Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
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