Back in action: Jacoby Ellsbury and Justin Masterson
One playoff-bound team (the Red Sox) and one likely playoff-bound team (the Indians) each got back a core contributor on Wednesday.
In Boston's case, it was center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who was seeing his first action since he fractured his right foot with a foul ball on Sept. 5. Against the Rockies on Wednesday, Ellsbury went 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored before being replaced by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the home half of the fourth.
On the season, Ellsbury is batting .299/.357/.424 and of course playing plus defense, and despite the missed time he still leads the majors in stolen bases with 52. The weekend series that starts Friday in Baltimore will give him three more games to round into form before the playoffs begin. While the Sox have the depth to make do without their starting center fielder, a healthy Ellsbury obviously makes them a better team.
As for the Indians, Justin Masterson, the team's ace for much of the season, pitched for first time since being sidelined with a strained left oblique on Sept. 3. At home versus the White Sox, Masterson on Wednesday night made his first relief appearance in more than four years. Staked to a 7-2 lead in the ninth, Masterson worked a scoreless frame, threw 17 pitches (10 for strikes), struck out two, walked none and allowed one hit. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Masterson showed good velocity on all three of his pitches.
As MLB.com's Mark Emery writes, Masterson, who now boasts a 3.50 ERA and 190 strikeouts in 190 1/3 innings, may not be able to start a game until the back end of the ALDS (should the Indians make it that far, of course). However, with his tendency to miss bats and his knack for keeping the ball on the ground, Masterson could do well as a high-leverage reliever until he's ready to rejoin the rotation.