The Indians' mastery of modern-day Cy Youngs continued Sunday afternoon, Seattle Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez becoming the latest victim.
The Cleveland Lumber Company roughed up Hernandez for six runs (five earned) on eight hits in five innings of a 6-0 victory at sun-soaked Progressive Field. Paid attendance: 19,744.
The much-anticipated matchup of Hernandez vs. Justin Masterson proved to be no contest.
Masterson, by TKO.
Masterson allowed three hits and struck out 11 in seven innings.
"He's by far a much better pitcher than I am," Masterson said of Hernandez. "He's one of the best out there and always will be. It just happened that today was our day."
Masterson (7-2, 2.83 ERA) has won three straight starts. He has worked 19 consecutive scoreless innings dating to the fifth against Oakland on May 8. He shut out the Yankees on four hits last Monday. Masterson also posted a 19-inning scoreless streak, April 2-12. He is the first Indian with two of at least 19 in one season since Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez in 2007.
The first-place Indians (25-17) have won four in a row and 17 of 21. Since April 20, they hold the best record in the majors at 20-7.
"We have a ton of confidence," said left fielder Michael Brantley, who went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer. "One of the main things is, we're keeping it really loose. We're enjoying it. When you're enjoying baseball and you're also winning, it's fun. It's fun to come to work every day. We pick up everybody in this locker room."
Eric Wedge's Mariners (20-24) have lost the first three of a four-game series that concludes this afternoon.
The Indians secured the first two games of the series via walkoffs. Sunday, they went the conventional route -- for them -- by disposing of another pitcher with a Cy Young Award on his resume. Hernandez won the American League's award in 2010.
The Indians improved to 7-1 against a reigning or former Cy Young. They also have defeated R.A. Dickey, David Price, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Bartolo Colon and Justin Verlander. They are scheduled to face Verlander on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
Cleveland is the first club in MLB history to defeat seven Cy's before June 1. The only loss has come against Jake Peavy.
"I hope we get up every day, but I think you come to the ballpark knowing that you're going to have to put in a good day's work," Tribe manager Terry Francona said of the challenge. "If you can't get excited facing a guy like that...."
It would be one thing if the Indians were slithering past these luminaries; the Indians are pounding them. The combined pitching line: 1-7 record, 8.21 ERA, 41 2/3 innings, 38 earned runs, 60 hits, 10 homers.
"Are we aware of it in this locker room?" Brantley said. "Absolutely we are. We talked about it (Sunday morning) before we came in. I don't know if it's a point of pride, because every day we go out we want to get that 'W.' But it's nice to get them against such great pitchers."
Hernandez (5-3, 2.07 ERA) entered on a serious roll. In his previous six starts, he went 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA, having given up four earned runs in 44 innings.
However, Hernandez was coming off a six-inning, one-run performance against the Yankees in New York in which he dealt with a sore lower back. How much, if at all, the back bothered him against the Indians is uncertain. He kept stretching it, especially in the second.
The obvious problem for Hernandez was the Tribe's relentless lineup. Professional at-bats and hits kept coming. Hernandez needed 107 pitches to get 15 outs, including 35 to get the first three.
"He's a phenomenal pitcher, and we knew we'd need to make him work," Brantley said. "We had good, quality at-bats. We got him early, and I think we put a little more pressure on him. I think he tried to over-throw a couple of pitches, and when that happens, you get a little bit of an advantage against such a great pitcher."
The Indians scored two in the first. They did so with a combination of hustle and good fortune.
Leadoff batter Michael Bourn set the tone, smacking a full-count pitch into right-center. What would have been a single for most turned into a hustle double when Bourn read right fielder Michael Morse's movement to the ball.
After Jason Kipnis struck out, Brantley singled to right-center to drive in Bourn. Brantley advanced to second on the throw through. Nick Swisher grounded routinely to first -- until the ball went between Justin Smoak's legs. Brantley scooted home.
Hernandez appeared poised for a stress-free second, retiring the first two on five pitches. But Bourn reached on an infield single, Kipnis singled to center and Brantley homered to center.
"Not only did we extend the inning, we scored three runs," Francona said. "That's a good way to play."
Brantley dropped the barrel on an 0-1 fastball and dented the roof of the Tribe bullpen. Several Indians personnel had predicted Brantley would homer Sunday.