CLEVELAND (AP) — Justin Masterson pitched seven strong innings for his third win, Asdrubal Cabrera had four RBIs and the surprising Cleveland Indians kept the AL Central standings flipped upside down with an 8-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.
Masterson (3-0) allowed just one run and four singles. He went 6-13 last season, and didn’t get his third win until July 1 — in his 16th start.
Travis Hafner homered for Cleveland, which entered the series tied for first with Kansas City. Last season, the Indians finished fourth in the division, two games ahead of the last-place Royals.
Cabrera’s two-run single highlighted Cleveland’s four-run third inning off rookie Zach Britton (2-1), who gave up five runs and eight hits in six innings.
The Orioles have lost five straight since a stunning 6-1 start. At 9-4, Cleveland is off to its best start since 2002.
After struggling for most of 2010, Masterson began to show signs of becoming a dependable starter in the final two months. The 6-foot-6 right-hander has carried that over into this season with three solid starts and wins over Chicago, Seattle and now Baltimore.
Masterson got 12 of his 21 outs on grounders.
The Indians were hoping to build on a 4-2 trip to Seattle and Los Angeles, and they’re off to a good start by winning their fifth straight at home.
Cabrera added another two-run single in the seventh, when Cleveland blew it open against Baltimore’s bullpen.
Britton won his first two starts, allowing just one run in his first 13 2-3 innings to beat Tampa Bay and Texas. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the 23-year-old displayed something special in spring training before even throwing a pitch.
“You could see it in his eyes,” Showalter said before the game. “He’s not too cool for school, but his first thoughts are
always ‘What have I got to do to stay here?’ He’s grounded and puts the team first.”
Britton’s sinker ran away from Cleveland’s hitters in the first two innings, but the bottom of the order figured out how to hit him in the third, when the Indians opened a 4-0 lead with six consecutive hits and a sacrifice fly.
Matt LaPorta, not exactly known for his speed on the basepaths, stretched what looked like a double off the left-field wall into a leadoff triple. Lou Marson, starting in place of slumping catcher Carlos Santana, followed with an RBI single and two more singles loaded the bases before Cabrera grounded a two-run single to center.
Hafner’s sacrifice fly made it 4-0, and Britton only avoided more damage when the Orioles successfully appealed that Cabrera left second too early.
Masterson roared through Baltimore’s lineup the first time. He retired nine in a row before Brian Roberts singled to open the fourth, when the Orioles got a two-out RBI single from Luke Scott.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)