CLEVELAND — Justin Masterson’s health is in doubt. The Indians’ playoff chances are just as iffy.
Masterson was pulled from his start in the second inning with soreness in his left side and Cleveland’s hitters stayed in a collective slump Monday night with a 7-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, one of the teams the Indians are scrapping with for the AL wild card.
Masterson felt tightness in his side in the first inning, and after applying a heat ointment between innings, Cleveland’s All-Star ace took the mound in the second thinking he would be able to continue.
But after a few pitches, his outing was done — and it’s possible his season could be over as well.
“It just tightened up on me,” Masterson (14-10) said. “I went out to throw and it was like, ‘Oh, boy.’ I couldn’t get through a pitch. I was trying to sink ’em in there, but it wasn’t going to work.”
Masterson will undergo an MRI and other tests today. Those results could determine whether the Indians will continue to battle for one of two playoff spots.
“Hopefully it’s nothing serious,” All-Star Jason Kipnis said. “Definitely love to have the big fella out there for us. He’s our ace.”
Bud Norris (10-10) stayed unbeaten as a starter with Baltimore, and Nate McLouth homered and had three RBIs as the Orioles moved 1½ games ahead of the Indians in the wild-card standings.
Norris allowed one run — a homer to Kipnis in the seventh — and four hits in seven innings. The right-hander improved to 4-0 in seven starts with the Orioles, who acquired him at the July 31 trading deadline from Houston.
Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer in the ninth and Brian Roberts drove in two runs for the Orioles, who didn’t take any satisfaction in not having to face Masterson for more than two innings.
“You hate to see that,” McLouth said. “I feel really bad for him. He can go through stretches of a game where he’s so dominant.”
Masterson said it’s possible he could only miss a few days and that some rest will help. However, he also realizes the tests could reveal something more significant.
“It’s not the best-case scenario,” he said. “So if it is any more serious than I think it is, we have some good guys in place that can do a lot of work. We’re hoping things will be all right.”