Chris Perez ruins Justin Masterson’s stellar day

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While he finished with a 3.32 ERA and 36 saves in 40 opportunities, Cleveland’s Chris Perez’s 2011 performance suggested that worse days were on the way. One struck in Thursday’s opener.

Justin Masterson allowed just two hits and struck out 10 in eight innings, only to watch Perez blow a 4-1 lead in the ninth against the Blue Jays.

Masterson was terrific from the get go, allowing just a homer to Jose Bautista while getting 20 of his 24 outs via a K or a groundout. Perez seemed likely enough to protect a three-run lead from there, but he managed to retire just two of the seven hitters he faced while blowing the three-run lead in the ninth.

What’s scary about Perez was the way his strikeout rate fell off last year. He went from fanning 61 guys in 63 innings in 2010 to 39 in 59 2/3 innings last year. Flyball pitchers who don’t get swings and misses simply aren’t very good bets, and Perez’s swing-and-miss rate has deteriorated each year since his debut.

Vinnie Pestano relieved Perez today, got the final out of the ninth to preserve the tie and then pitched a scoreless 10th in a tie game. He had more than twice as many strikeouts as Perez last year, finishing with 84 in 62 innings, and it’d be no surprise if he soon becomes Cleveland’s closer.

Video: Gift Ngoepe singles in his first major league at-bat

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Pirates infielder Gift Ngoepe, just called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, singled in his first major league at-bat on Wednesday evening against Cubs starter Jon Lester. It was a well-struck ground ball up the middle in the bottom of the fourth inning. Unfortunately for him, the Pirates could not bring him around to score.

Ngoepe, who was pinch-hitting, stayed in the game to play second base.

Shelby Miller getting third opinion on elbow from Dr. James Andrews

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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Monday due to inflammation in his right elbow. He had a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday and is currently awaiting a third opinion from Dr. James Andrews, Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports reports. That he’s getting a third opinion seems to imply that Miller’s elbow issue is rather serious.

Miller, 26, hasn’t been able to catch a break since joining the Diamondbacks. Last year’s nightmarish season included a finger injury stemming from mechanical woes and a brief demotion to the minor leagues. In 20 starts in the majors last year, Miller posted an ugly 6.15 ERA. This year, his ERA is a mediocre 4.09 over four starts.

The Diamondbacks called up Zack Godley to take Miller’s spot in the rotation. There was some speculation that it would be Archie Bradley instead, but he’s been working out of the bullpen.