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Effective slider helps Masterson slow Orioles

BOSTON -- As an icy rain began to fall on Fenway Park on Monday, Justin Masterson worked quickly through the fifth inning, firing fastballs and spinning sliders while the weather around him worsened.

"I was just thinking, 'Lets get out of the top half [of the fifth],' because I wanted to get to the bottom half so we can keep going," Masterson said. "We had scored so many runs that my take was, rain aside, I was just out there trying to pitch -- 'OK, lets make this quick because we're up 5-1 at the time. Lets make this quick so we can get some guys out, but also compete.'"

Amid a string of unspectacular outings from the Red Sox's rotation, it was Masterson who helped quiet the hot-hitting Orioles in a chilly 7-1 win at Fenway Park. The right-hander threw five innings and allowed one run on a trio of hits en route to his second win of the season.

Notable in the effort was Masterson's success against Baltimore's lefty-heavy lineup, as he held O's lefties to 3-for-10 on the day. Lefties hit Masterson at a .284 clip from 2012-14.

"The one thing he's done a better job at, of really learning himself over the last couple years, is attacking left-handed hitters," Boston manager John Farrell said. "I think he and [catcher] Ryan Hanigan have done a great job of using both his two- and four-seam fastball, as well as his slider, to mix things up."

Video: [email protected]: Farrell on Masterson's solid outing in win

The win marked Masterson's first as a member of the Red Sox since April 26, 2009, when he bested the Yankees during his original stint with the team.

"I'm always trying to get a feel for where he's at and how comfortable he is throwing pitches," Hanigan said. "Whether it's during the inning or in the dugout after. Today he was pretty sharp. When he missed with a few pitches, he got it together real quick and didn't waver."

Despite a fastball that mostly hovered between 88-90 mph, Masterson kept the O's off balance due to effective use of his slider, which contributed to his ability to record six strikeouts in the outing. Of the 16 times opposing hitters swung at the pitch, only five balls were put in play, according to Brooks Baseball.

"The slider was working real good," Masterson said. "Control was pretty good, too. The sinker didn't sink as much as I would have liked it to, but really being able to mix and match. [I] talked about it over the last couple -- the slider is going to be key. Throwing that for strikes and was really able to do that."

The outing embodied both a nice bounce-back effort for Masterson, who gave up seven runs in his last start, and a boost for the Red Sox's rotation, which had endured a number of subpar outings in recent days. Masterson, however, has high hopes for Boston's starting five.

"As you look at this staff, it's a group of guys who know what they need to do," Masterson said. "I don't think it bothers us right now with our numbers. Does it bother me? No. I know we have some great stuff and good things coming along. Those from the outside looking in, they are going to say, 'You had a decent outing, but five innings -- only five innings?' It is going to be out there the entire time and there will be scrutiny, but I think great things will be coming from us."

Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for
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