CLEVELAND — The Cy Young slayers claimed another victim.
The Indians’ penchant for beating the best continued Sunday at Progressive Field, with Cleveland slugging its way past Felix Hernandez and the Mariners 6-0.
The Indians have now beaten seven former Cy Young Award winners — Toronto’s R.A. Dickey, Tampa Bay’s David Price, Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, Oakland’s Bartolo Colon and Detroit’s Justin Verlander — with their only loss coming against Chicago’s Jake Peavy.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, first-place Cleveland — which owns the majors’ best record since April 20 (20-7) and has its best 21-game stretch (17-4) since 2007 — is the first club in big league history to beat seven Cy Young winners before June 1.
The team is well aware of what it’s done.
“Absolutely,” left fielder Michael Brantley said. “I don’t know if it’s a point of pride, but it is nice to beat good pitchers like that.”
The Indians aren’t just beating them. They are beating them up. Over 41⅔ innings of eight games, Cleveland has scored 42 runs (38 earned) on 60 hits, including 10 home runs, with the Cy Young opposition posting a whopping 8.21 ERA.
Such was the case against Hernandez and the Eric Wedge-led Mariners.
The Indians came out of the gate swinging, with leadoff man Michael Bourn setting the tone by stretching a single into a double and then scoring on a hit from Brantley. Brantley scored on an error before changing the complexion of the game in his next at-bat.
Bourn’s speed was on display again on a two-out infield single in the second that was followed by a base hit from second baseman Jason Kipnis, before Brantley connected for a three-run homer to right on an 0-1 pitch from Hernandez.
“We made him work early and we made him work hard,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Hernandez, who allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits over five innings. “Obviously, Michael Brantley, that was a huge blow. We made him work for everything.”
It was the first loss for Hernandez (5-3, 2.07 ERA) since April 11 and accounted for his briefest outing of the season.
The run support was plenty for Cleveland starter Justin Masterson, who extended his scoreless-innings streak to 19 by blanking Seattle on just three hits, while striking out a season-high 11 over seven innings.
Masterson (7-2, 2.83) surrendered just one hit over the first four innings, allowing his hitters to build the cushion against Hernandez.
“When you’re facing Felix and there’s not one single guy in the clubhouse that feels like we can’t win the game, that’s a pretty good testament to Masty,” Francona said. “From the first pitch of the game, he came out on fire.”
There were two aces on the mound, but only Masterson played the part.
“He’s by far a much better pitcher than I am,” Masterson said of Hernandez. “It just so happened that it was our day. He’s one of the best out there and he always will be.”
Masterson has been one of the best this season, leading a starting staff that has improved from last year and is giving the Indians a chance to win on a consistent basis. Over the highly successful 21-game stretch, Indians starting pitchers are 13-4 with a 2.97 ERA.
Cleveland is backing it up with offense — and beating Cy Young Award winners along the way.
“It just feels like we’re doing our thing,” first baseman Nick Swisher said. “Over the past few years, this team hasn’t been given much credit. We know what kind of team we have. If we keep doing what we’re doing, it’s going to be a great season.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.