Cleveland starting pitcher Justin Masterson throws against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
SEATTLE — Justin Masterson took a shutout into the seventh inning, striking out nine, and the streaking Cleveland Indians benefited from one careless mistake by Seattle in a 2-1 win over the Mariners on Saturday night.
The Indians won their sixth straight and are alone in first place in the AL Central for the first time since May, 2008.
Masterson (2-0) backed up an impressive season debut last Sunday against the Chicago White Sox with a performance that left Mariners batters waving at air most of the night. He gave up one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings before turning things over to the bullpen.
Cleveland got its only runs in the fourth, one scoring when Milton Bradley threw wildly to third on Orlando Cabrera's sacrifice fly. The ball was kicked by pitcher Doug Fister into the Indians dugout, allowing Shin-Soo Choo to score from second base on the error.
Fister (0-2) allowed just one earned run in six innings for the Mariners, but Seattle dropped its sixth straight.
Fister couldn't match Masterson's effort. The young righty, who pitches from a unique arm angle, had Seattle hitters guessing for much of the night. Masterson had seven strikeouts in the first four innings and retired 13 of his first 15 batters before giving up a one-out double to Adam Kennedy in the fifth.
Masterson walked only one and nearly matched his season debut against the White Sox when he threw seven innings, giving up just one run but without any strikeouts.
The nine strikeouts against Seattle tied for the second-most in his career.
Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp worked the seventh and eighth in relief for Cleveland. Chris Perez pitched the ninth for his third save of the season and 13th straight dating to last August.
Fister found trouble in the fourth, the same inning that doomed Seattle a night earlier when the Indians sent 14 batters to the plate and scored 10 runs.
The damage wasn't nearly as severe this time, but featured a careless mistake.
Fister gave up consecutive singles to Asdrubal Cabrera and Choo to start the inning, then with one out intentionally walked Travis Hafner to load the bases. On a 3-2 pitch to Orlando Cabrera, Fister induced a fly ball to left that was going to be deep enough to easily score one run.
Bradley caught the fly, but then threw toward third base where no one was covering. Fister raced over to try and stop the wild throw, but managed to kick the ball into the Indians dugout, allowing Choo to score from second.
That was all the offense the Indians got, but it was enough against a Mariners lineup that can't come through with clutch hitting. The Mariners were 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and haven't led since the second inning of last Sunday's loss at Oakland.
Seattle threatened in both the fifth and sixth, failing to get a needed hit. Chone Figgins broke an 0-for-26 skid with a one-out single in the sixth and advanced all the way to third on a wild pitch. He then watched Bradley and Jack Cust strike out to end the inning.
Seattle did get a run in the seventh when Michael Saunders dumped a two-out single to center that scored Justin Smoak, but Figgins' leadoff double in the eighth was squandered after Bradley flied out, Cust struck out and Smoak grounded out.
NOTES: Bradley wore ear plugs during his at-bat in the eighth. He jogged in from left field to speak with third base umpire Sam Holbrook with two outs in the seventh and has been booed at home. ... Indians OF Grady Sizemore played nine innings for Double-A Akron on Saturday as he continues his recovery from offseason knee surgery. Manager Manny Acta said Sizemore was encouraged after the outing, which included five plate appearances. Sizemore also was "tested" on the bases, he said. ... Indians INF Jason Donald (hand) expected to begin his rehab assignment at Double-A Akron on Sunday.