Cy Young himself wouldn’t want to mess with the Indians right now.
Justin Masterson struck out a season-high 11 in seven shutout innings and Michael Brantley hit a three-run homer and drove in four runs off Felix Hernandez as Cleveland toppled yet another former Cy Young Award winner on Sunday with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Brantley connected in the second inning off Hernandez (5-3), who failed to go at least six innings for the first time this season.
The Indians, who improved to 17-4 since April 28, are 7-1 this season against Cy Young recipients. They’ve knocked off Hernandez, R.A. Dickey, David Price, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Bartolo Colon and Justin Verlander.
The Indians are taking pride in knocking off trophy-winning pitchers.
“We just take it as a challenge,” Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. “We’ve got that scrappy-type and gritty-type of team. It may not always be pretty, man, but somehow we’re going to find a way to get it done. We just love coming to the ballpark right now.
“Things are rocking,” Swisher said.
Before the game, Brantley said the Indians talked about taking down another trophy-winning pitcher.
“We’re loose and we’re not holding nothing back,” Brantley said. “Everybody has smiles on their faces. We just want to make sure we enjoy this. We’re playing great baseball right now and we just want to keep it up.”
Staked to an early lead, Masterson (7-2) was dominant for the second straight start. He allowed three singles, easily outdueled Hernandez and ran his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 19. He shut out the New York Yankees 1-0 on four hits in his previous outing.
“From the very first pitch of the game he came out firing,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He was not only firing, but he was pitching. He was using both sides of the plate.
“He was using a two-seamer, four-seamer, throwing breaking balls to both sides of the plate. He kept going up, down, in, out. He worked ahead.”
The AL Central-leading Indians are a baseball-best 20-7 since April 20.
“We’ve got a good thing going in here,” Swisher said. “We’ve got a lot of confident, excited guys and we’re going out and proving that.”
Following walkoff wins in the first two games of the series, Cleveland took the drama out of this one early, building a 5-0 lead after two innings against Hernandez.
The 2010 Cy Young winner, who left his previous start after six innings with back stiffness, came in with the league’s lowest ERA (1.53) but it rose to 2.07 after he gave up six runs and eight hits in five innings. Hernandez struck out eight, including the final three batters, but he was wasn’t on his game — and neither were the Mariners.
Seattle was only charged with one error, but the Mariners made several mental mistakes that helped the Indians.