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Lack of control results in Masterson's first loss

MLB.com

BOSTON -- For four innings, Justin Masterson walked a tightrope on Wednesday night, combating wildness just well enough to keep the Red Sox even with the Rays. By the time he allowed his third and fourth runs in the fifth inning, however, the mistake proved one too many as the Red Sox lost their rubber match with the Rays, 5-3, at Fenway Park.

"It was just lack of control as we got later on in the game," Masterson said. "The first part was great, first three innings. The fourth, mixed through it. The fifth was kind of a culmination. Just couldn't make the adjustment out there to get back to throwing strikes. Close, but not close enough."

Full Game Coverage

BOSTON -- For four innings, Justin Masterson walked a tightrope on Wednesday night, combating wildness just well enough to keep the Red Sox even with the Rays. By the time he allowed his third and fourth runs in the fifth inning, however, the mistake proved one too many as the Red Sox lost their rubber match with the Rays, 5-3, at Fenway Park.

"It was just lack of control as we got later on in the game," Masterson said. "The first part was great, first three innings. The fourth, mixed through it. The fifth was kind of a culmination. Just couldn't make the adjustment out there to get back to throwing strikes. Close, but not close enough."

Full Game Coverage

Masterson (2-1, 5.18 ERA) walked six batters, one shy of his career high, while allowing four runs and seven hits across 4 1/3 innings. The outing marked the third time in the past four games that Boston's rotation did not produce a quality start, and it was the third time this season the sinkerballer pitched fewer than six innings.

"At times he gets a little bit long," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of the 6-foot-6 right-hander. "He has long levers to begin with, but he'll start to leak away from the mound. His timing in his delivery can get spread out, and that's when you see the misfires. He'll yank some balls down and in to lefties. The sinker and fastball stay up and away to lefties and he starts to work a little bit east and west rather than staying through the strike zone."

Video: TB@BOS: Pedroia makes a run-saving play at second

Sound infield defense cured Masterson's location woes early on as he induced inning-ending double plays in the first and second frames. Logan Forsythe singled home a run in the third, and Evan Longoria hit the first of two solo shots an inning later to knot the game at 2.

Ultimately it was Tampa Bay rookie Joey Butler who dealt the final blow in the fifth on a two-run single that sailed into right over second baseman Dustin Pedroia's head.

"We were trying to go down and away, went up and in on him," Masterson said. "Still broke his bat. It was strong enough. Even if it was probably down in there, it might've been a ground ball to Pedroia instead of just over his head."

Masterson said his command issues -- he thought he over-rotated his fastball and sinker -- were different than those he dealt with last season. Because of this, he feels optimistic that the issues can be corrected quickly.

"It's something I haven't dealt with yet this year," Masterson said. "So at least we're not repeating what we've been doing. I think it's something we can easily come back from and really have a solid outing."

At the very least, the easy-going pitcher could keep a sense of humor in defeat.

"For a little bit there I felt like I was in the refilming of Major League," he said. "I could hear the ump saying, 'Ball four, ball eight, ball 12, tried the corner and missed.'"

Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com.

 

Boston Red Sox, Justin Masterson