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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Justin Masterson struggled from the start and things never really got better.
Jeremy Hellickson pitched seven impressive innings, John Jaso homered, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Cleveland Indians 7-0 on Sunday.
Masterson (5-3) allowed seven runs, eight hits, and five walks in five innings for the Indians. He entered winless in his five previous starts including two losses despite a 2.80 ERA over the stretch.
“He’s only got one shaky outing and it’s today,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “Obviously didn’t have a good outing, but he’s been money for us so far.”
Masterson is 1-6 in 11 career games against Tampa Bay, and the only two times the right-hander has given up more three runs in a start this season has come against the Rays.
“We just may work well against him,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “Maybe we’ve played well against him in the past and he thinks about it. I have no specific reasons.”
Masterson did not record a strikeout for the second time this season, and it was the first time he failed to pitch into the sixth.
“Just had a tough time controlling the strike zone and it got me in bad counts,” Masterson said. “They took advantage of it, which is good by them.”
Hellickson (6-3) scattered three hits, walked two and had six strikeouts. The right-hander has won five of his last six starts.
Jaso hit a two-run homer off Masterson as Tampa Bay went ahead 4-0 in the fourth. Ben Zobrist had an RBI grounder and Sam Fuld hit a run-scoring infield single in a three-run fifth that extended the Rays’ lead to 7-0.
The AL Central-leading Indians are 11-11 since May 4. Cleveland was also blanked 5-0 in the series’ opener on Friday.
“Certainly not the way you want to start a road trip, especially being shut out two of three games here,” Acta said.
Johnny Damon had an RBI single during a two-run third that put the Rays up 2-0. The other run scored when catcher Lou Marson was charged with a passed ball that allowed Evan Longoria to score from third.
Hellickson worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the first by getting a double-play grounder from Travis Buck.
“Just getting out of the first inning was huge,” Maddon said. “I think that might have been the tipping point.”
Hellickson struck out Grady Sizemore with two runners on to end the fourth.
“We just couldn’t make the adjustments offensively against Hellickson,” Acta said. “He had a very good change up as usual. Mixed his pitches very well.”
Sizemore was the designated hitter for the third straight game and struck out in all four plate appearances. He is hitless in 12 at-bats, including seven strikeouts, since returning from a bruised right kneecap on Friday.
The Indians are still planning to have Sizemore possibly play the field once during a three-game series that starts Monday night at Toronto.
NOTES: The Indians have lost 10 of 12 against Tampa Bay in Florida. ... The Rays issued a statement through spokesman Rick Vaughn one day after singer Avril Lavigne used an expletive several times following technical problems during a postgame concert. “The Rays demand profanity-free performances from all of our concert performers and we are extremely disappointed by the language used in last night’s show. It is not consistent with the family-friendly atmosphere that Tropicana Field is known for.”