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PIT@CLE: Masterson fans nine in seven shutout frames

Cleveland and Cincinnati both enter their final meeting of 2012 on Wednesday in first place in their respective divisions and hoping their starting pitchers turn in performances consistent with their most recent outings.

The fate of the Ohio Cup depends on it, as a win would give Cincinnati its fourth against Cleveland this season, while a Cleveland triumph means a 3-3 tie.

For the Indians, Justin Masterson looked like the ace they expect him to be in his previous start. After three straight losing decisions, the right-hander threw seven shutout innings against the Pirates on Friday. Masterson allowed just four hits and struck out nine for his first victory since May 24.

Masterson's four-seam fastball clocked in as high as 96 mph. Manager Manny Acta said his slider was the sharpest it's been all season. And Masterson's signature sinker was ultra-effective.

The Indians could especially use another such start from Masterson after getting little from their pitching in recent games. Cleveland allowed 27 runs in its three previous games prior to Tuesday.

"If he continues to throw the ball like that, then we're in business," Acta said after Masterson's last start.

Masterson will oppose veteran righty Bronson Arroyo, who won his first decision since May 7 on Friday against the Mets. It was also just his third victory of the season. All three of the runs against Arroyo in six innings came on two home runs, and he yielded only four hits.

Arroyo, the National League's leader in starts and innings pitched since 2006, was more effective against New York primarily because of a livelier fastball.

"He had better velocity tonight," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Arroyo, who is 5-4 with a 4.67 ERA all-time against Cleveland. "He was 88-89 [mph], and that's 3-4 mph faster than he had been throwing, and that sets up his breaking stuff. He had real good command of all his pitches."

Reds: Phillips appeals Monday's play
• Brandon Phillips is seeking his first career inside-the-park home run by way of review. The second baseman and his agent are appealing for Major League Baseball to review the original decision on Phillips' trip around the bases in Monday's game, ruled a double and an error by Johnny Damon. Damon aggressively charged the ball and attempted to gather it before it caromed off the wall in left-field foul territory.

"Once you try to make that effort, crazy things happen," Phillips said. "Outfielders take a gamble when they dive for a ball coming in. That's how people get inside-the-park homers, when you take a gamble on something. I feel he took a gamble, so it should be a home run. He never touched the ball."

• Joey Votto is the first Reds player since Frank Robinson in 1961 to record at least 44 hits and 19 extra-base hits in fewer than 100 at-bats. After Tuesday, he is 46-for-103 (.447) with 13 doubles and nine home runs in his last 29 games.

Indians: Damon gets day off
• Outfielder Johnny Damon didn't start on Tuesday after suffering a sore lower back and bruised side while crashing into the wall on his misplay of Phillips' appealed hit Monday. Despite both that blunder and his 38 years of age, Damon still believes he's a reliable defender.

"I actually feel fine and fresh out in the outfield since I did DH the last couple years," Damon said. "I feel like I'm better than many guys out there. I can get to a lot more balls than other guys can. The tougher plays are the ones over your head, where they slice or they curve on you. I've definitely had a few of those this year. But I've been pretty good at going lateral and going forward."

• Casey Kotchman has hit .389 (7-for-18), with two home runs and six RBIs over his last five games.

Worth noting
• Shin-Soo Choo has fared well against Arroyo, going 6-for-12 with four home runs and seven RBIs.

• The Tribe's win on Tuesday clinched only its third series victory in the last 11 with Cincinnati. Comments