CLEVELAND — When Cleveland Indians starter Justin Masterson walked the notoriously impatient A.J. Pierzynski to load the bases with two outs in the top of the first inning on Monday night, Jonny Gomes came to the plate knowing precisely what his approach would be.
Masterson had already issued two walks, adding to his American League-leading total. Gomes was going to make the righthander throw him a strike before he even considered swinging.
Ball one. Ball two. Ball three. Three pitches in a row inside and well off the plate. The Red Sox were on the verge of taking the lead.
Gomes took a fastball over the middle. But that didn’t change how selective he wanted to be.
“You want that 3-1 pitch to be perfect,” Gomes said. “Even if he lets it go and now it’s 3-2, you have all the runners in motion. That 3-1 pitch isn’t a must-swing. It’s almost like a 0-0 or 3-0 count.”
Masterson threw another fastball that was even better than the previous pitch and it was called a strike.
Watching from the dugout, Red Sox manager John Farrell relished the situation Gomes was in.
“We were kind of in the driver’s seat,” he said.
Masterson went back to his fastball. The ball was over the plate but in the lower part of the strike zone. Gomes started toward first base but advanced only a step before umpire Phil Cuzzi punched the night air and called him out.
Gomes fell to one knee and took off his helmet.
“Big momentum shift for [Masterson],” he said.
It was actually the game. Masterson did not allow another runner beyond second base. His seven shutout innings helped the Indians beat the Red Sox, 3-2, and snap their seven-game win streak.
Gomes thought he had all the advantages against Masterson, but that changed as the at-bat went on. Gomes has worked the count full 22 times this season and drawn eight walks. But he also has struck out 13 times and has only one hit.
Gomes also is hitting .174 against righthanders. The righthanded hitter started mostly against lefthanders last season but he has become an everyday player in recent weeks with the Red Sox lacking outfield depth.
Farrell likes what Gomes brings to the lineup. But against righthanders, those qualities are lessened.
“The hardest pitch to hit in the game is a well-located, down fastball,” Gomes said. “You’re not going to make too much money off those. It would have been good to foul it off.”
Masterson walked two in the first inning and escaped. Red Sox starter John Lackey wasn’t as fortunate.
Michael Bourn drew a leadoff walk and stole second. Michael Brantley also walked. The runners moved up on a ground out to first base.
With two outs, Lackey threw a high fastball to Lonnie Chisenhall. The lefthanded hitter poked the ball into left field, where it landed softly down the line. Both runners scored as Lackey shook his head.
“That was a pretty fortunate hit,” he said. “But I put myself in the situation with the two walks. That’s the bottom line. I can’t walk those two guys.”
Lackey hadn’t walked the first batter he faced all season and only twice in 11 starts had he walked more than two.
“It ended up costing me in the end, for sure,” he said.
Bourn started the third inning with a triple to center field, lining a Lackey fastball to the deepest part of the park. Jackie Bradley Jr. missed on a leaping catch.
Asdrubal Cabrera grounded a single into right field to give the Indians a 3-0 lead.
Lackey (6-4) went eight innings. He gave up eight hits, walked the two, and struck out three.
Masterson (3-4) needed 28 pitches to get through the first inning. But he threw only 77 over the following six innings as he diced up the Red Sox with his two-seam fastball and an effective slider.
Masterson struck out the side on nine pitches in the fourth inning, getting Gomes, Grady Sizemore, and Stephen Drew.
The last pitcher to do that against the Red Sox was Roger Clemens in 1997, when he was pitching for Toronto.
“Masterson was outstanding,” Farrell said.
With Masterson at 105 pitches, Cleveland manager Terry Francona — is that still odd to read? — had righthander Bryan Shaw start the eighth inning.
Brock Holt singled to left field with one out before new third baseman Xander Bogaerts went the other way with a two-strike cutter and homered to right field.
It was the fourth home run for Bogaerts and his sixth extra-base hit in the last nine games. The shot cut the Cleveland lead to 3-2.
But the Red Sox went in order from there, with Cody Allen getting the final three outs for his fourth save.
Sizemore, the former Indians star, popped to shortstop to end the game. He was 0 for 4 in his return to Progressive Field.
Drew was back at shortstop for the Red Sox for the first time since Game 6 of the World Series in October. He was 0 for 2 with a walk and played his usual solid game in the field. He was part of three double plays.
Gomes was one of the last Red Sox players to leave the clubhouse after the game, that first-inning strikeout still on his mind.
“I wanted him to earn it,” Gomes said, “and he earned it.”