Match-Up of the Night: Cleveland Indians @ Boston Red Sox

Terry Francona Shares a Moment with David Ortiz - Jared Wickerham

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona had a triumphant return to Boston yesterday as the Indians beat the Red Sox 12-3. This has the makings to be a great match-up tonight and that's why it's the one I feel deserves the title of Match-Up of the Night!

In what I’m pegging as the match-up of the night this is one that everyone should at least take the time to sneak a peek at if you can’t watch the entire game. The Cleveland Indians ripped the Boston Red Sox a new one yesterday, in what was manager Terry Francona’s first visit to Boston since his departure, by a score of 12-3.

Justin Masterson, who has been nothing short of a shot in the arm for the Indians rotation and team, is in the midst of a 19-innings scoreless streak. That is tied for the longest of his career, as well as the season when he had thrown 19-innings of scoreless baseball until the Boston Red Sox broke that up on April 17 earlier this season on their way to a three-game sweep of the Tribe.

(Alex Kienholz provided us with a PitchF/X profile of Masterson earlier this season)

Both teams have surprised many of us this year by how well they have played, with the Indians a half game up on the Detroit Tigers at 27-19 and the Red Sox just one game behind the New York Yankees at 28-20.

What I’m Paying Attention To

1) Justin Masterson has put himself together a mighty fine season by posting a 2.83/2.94 ERA/FIP line, a 24.8% K rate (a career high), a 9.1% BB rate, and a 60.8% first-pitch strike rate (also a career high) over 70 innings of work thus far. Throw in the fact that he’s in the middle of a 19-inning scoreless streak and the last team to ruin such a streak for him was the Red Sox and you’ve got yourself a pretty decent storyline for why this matters other than the usual reason (to win).

2) The Red Sox are just 10-12 in the month of May after pulling off an 18-8 record in April -- thanks in part to a league-leading .339 BABIP and a league-leading .221 BAA for their pitching staff. They’ve come back down to earth on both fronts since the calendar rolled over to May and the last thing they want to do is lose ground to any of the other three teams in their division that are currently in the race (New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and Tampa Bay Rays).

They’ll need to start stringing together some solid performances starting tonight now that they have put outfielder Shane Victorino and third baseman Will Middlebrooks each on the 15-day DL.

3) Terry Francona wants to win. He may say all of the right things and be respectful, humble, and appreciative for all that he was able to accomplish with the Red Sox and all that jazz but let’s face it -- this man wants to beat the living snot out of them and continue to lead his division.

What You're Paying Attention To

This thread! Stop by any time tonight to talk baseball with myself and the rest of the BtBS crew! Give your thoughts on the Indians-Red Sox game, another game, or just what's going on in your life. Baseball!

You can follow me on Twitter @BSLLanceRinker, find out more about me by reading my BtBS bio, and even listen to my weekly podcast 'Bird Talk' that I host and produce -- we talk about the Baltimore Orioles.

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