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SEA@CLE: Masterson strikes out 11 over seven frames

CLEVELAND -- If you bring a Cy Young Award winner to Progressive Field, you better pack bandages, too.

On Saturday, Mariners ace Felix Hernandez became the latest Cy guy to struggle against the Indians. They took the afternoon contest, 6-0, and extended their winning streak to four games. Michael Brantley had four RBIs and crushed a three-run homer in the second inning, his second of the year.

The victory was Cleveland's 20th in the past 27 games. Its current 17-4 stretch is the franchise's best 21-game span since September 2007. It's also the finest in baseball.

Of course, with the way they're playing, the Indians are crushing pitchers of all ability levels, but Cy Young Award winners have been particularly brutalized -- in eight games, they're 1-7 with an 8.21 ERA.

"I'm sure the guys would love to be 8-0," starter Justin Masterson said about his teammates. "What makes this team special is when a guy out there [is] good, they get excited. The boys get excited [and] want to go out there and have solid at-bats. I don't think it's just with former Cy Young Award winners -- I think that's what they've been doing the last couple weeks, which has been really good."

The Indians are very mindful of how they've pummeled Cy Young Award winners, according to Brantley.

"Are we aware of it? In this locker room? Absolutely, we are," Brantley said. "We talked about it this morning before we came in. But it's more about our approach, making sure that we don't do too much, and like I said before, we want to work the count and get him out of there in the fifth inning if we can. We did a great job today."

The Tribe wasted no time in getting to Hernandez. In the first inning, Brantley -- who was moved up to third in the lineup -- singled in Michael Bourn. He scored on the next play when Justin Smoak misplayed a grounder off the bat of Nick Swisher at first base.

After Brantley's homer made it 5-0, the Indians tacked on another in the fourth. Mike Aviles doubled to left and scored from second on Drew Stubbs' ball in front of the plate. Hernandez didn't cover home as catcher Jesus Montero fielded the hit and threw to first.

"[With] Aviles, everybody was shocked. We didn't see it coming," Brantley said. "I told him. I said, 'That's a heads-up play. That's awesome.' That's just running the bases hard and running the bases correctly."

Six runs were plenty for Masterson. The righty won his third straight decision by allowing just three hits over seven shutout innings. Masterson (7-2) struck out a season-high 11 while walking two. His ERA fell to 2.83.

"When you're going against Felix, and there's not one guy in the clubhouse that didn't think we had a chance to win, that's a pretty big compliment to Masty," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "From the very first pitch of the game, he came out firing. And he not only was firing, but he was pitching.

"He was using both sides of the plate. He was using the two-seamer, four-seamer, throwing the breaking ball to both sides of the plate. He just kept going up, down, in, out and just worked ahead."

Masterson, who shut out the Yankees in his previous outing, has thrown 19 straight scoreless innings.

Before facing Cleveland on Sunday, Hernandez (5-3) had given up just four earned runs over his previous 45 innings. Thanks to the Tribe, his ERA jumped from 1.53 to 2.07. Five of his six runs were earned. Hernandez walked two and struck out eight.

"Today was just one of those days," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "We had our guy on the mound, they did a good job against him, and their guy threw a heck of a ballgame."

The Indians have outscored Seattle 17-7 during this series. At 25-17, they have sole possession of first place in the American League Central.

"We have a ton of confidence," Brantley said. "But one of the main things is we're keeping it real loose, and we're enjoying it. When you're enjoying baseball and you're also winning, it's fun. It's fun to come into work every day. We pick up everybody in this locker room. [If] we continue to do that, it's going to be a great season this year."

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