By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) _ With a few potential Hall of Famers and a smattering of All-Stars, the New York Yankees’ lineup is loaded with big hitters.
On Saturday night, none of them got the big hit.
New York wasted a complete game by Hiroki Kuroda and blew two late scoring chances against Justin Masterson in a 3-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians, who snapped a nine-game losing streak and won for just the fifth time in August.
Down 3-0, the Yankees had a chance in the sixth inning, when they loaded the bases with none out against Masterson (10-11). But after getting a sacrifice fly by Mark Teixeira, New York was unable to push across another run. The Yankees then loaded the bases again in the seventh, but failed to score.
New York stranded eight runners from the fifth through the seventh.
“It happens,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Our guys had pretty good at-bats. We weren’t able to get that big hit.”
Kuroda (12-9) had one bad inning– the first. He put two on with a hit batter and a walk before grooving a sinker to Michael Brantley, whose three-run homer would be the only runs Cleveland needed. Kuroda allowed four hits, walked two and struck out six in his fifth career complete game.
It was only Kuroda’s second loss in 12 starts dating to June 25.
“He made the one mistake with his fastball to Brantley,” Girardi said. “He left it down the middle and it got hit out.”
For the second time this month, Masterson ended a long skid for the Indians, whose stunning second-half collapse has dropped them from playoff contention to fourth in the AL Central. On Aug. 8, Masterson beat Minnesota and stopped Cleveland’s 11-game slide, one loss shy of the club record.
“He’s our go-to guy whenever we’re going through tough times,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He’ll get us out of it. He’s our guy.”
The Indians, who were just 31/2 games out of first place on July 26, won for only the fifth time in 27 games.
“It’s been rough,” said closer Chris Perez, who worked the ninth for his 33rd save. “I’ve never been through something like
this. I was here in 2010, when we were pretty brutal– but we were brutal all year. To go from competing to all of a sudden three weeks later … it was just a free-fall.”
Masterson, roughed up by Oakland in his previous start, allowed one run and seven hits. He walked two, struck out six and worked his way out of the mess in the sixth.
Vinnie Pestano replaced Masterson in the seventh, inheriting two runners with two outs. Pestano walked Robinson Cano to load the bases before breaking Teixeira’s bat on a popup.
“We didn’t get the big hit,” Teixeira said. “But between Masterson and the two relievers they threw out there, it’s tough. Their eighth- and ninth-inning guys are two of the best in baseball.”
Teixeira was especially impressed with Pestano.
“Pestano’s got dirty stuff,” he said. “I don’t want to throw out a Mariano (Rivera) comparison with that cutter. That’s a really tough cutter. He throws it hard. He throws it from sidearm angle, which is really tough to see. His numbers show it.” Perez pitched a perfect ninth, striking out Derek Jeter for the final out.
The colorful closer punctuated the strikeout with a fist pump, and moments later, the Indians lined up in the infield to exchange high-fives and celebrate a rare win.
“It’s nice to smile after the game. It’s been a rough month, a very rough month,” Acta said. “We’re looking forward to turning things around and see some of our kids get out there and make some impact on the games we have left.”
Despite their fifth loss in six road games, the AL East-leading Yankees remained 31/2 games ahead of Tampa Bay, which lost 4-2 to Oakland.
Masterson coasted through five innings, allowing just three hits and holding a 3-0 lead.
But the Yankees had him on the ropes in the sixth, when they loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Teixeira’s sacrifice fly to deep center made it 3-1, and Masterson walked Curtis Granderson to refill the bases. However, Masterson got Eric Chavez on a liner to third and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo ran down Russell Martin’s drive at the warning track.
As the ball left his bat, Martin thought it would clear Choo’s head.
“I did at first, but the ball just died and he was there,” Martin said. “I thought I struck it better than that, but obviously I didn’t.”
NOTES: Jeter has a .366 career average at Progressive Field– his highest at any ballpark. He went 2 for 5 and leads the majors with 173 hits. … Girardi expects LHP Andy Pettitte to appear in another major league game this season. Pettitte has been on the disabled list with a broken left ankle since June 28. He threw in the outfield before the game and is scheduled to visit Dr. Chris Ahmad on Monday in New York. … Cano is batting .430 (34 of 79) with six homers and 20 RBIs in 20 games against Cleveland since the start of the 2010 season.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)