CLEVELAND (AP) — Justin Masterson won his fifth straight start, a stunning personal turnaround from last season, Jack Hannahan homered twice and Shin-Soo Choo hit a three-run shot, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 9-4 win over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.
Masterson (5-0) allowed three runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings. A year ago, the right-hander started 0-5, lost 11 straight games over two seasons and went winless over a stretch of 17 starts — a club record of futility.
He’s a different pitcher in 2011. The Indians are a different team.
They hit five homers and won their eight straight at home.
Hannahan hit solo shots in the third and fifth off Luke Hochevar (2-3), and Choo connected in the seventh on reliever Louis Coleman’s first pitch to make it 7-3.
Grady Sizemore went 3 for 4 and hit a two-run homer in the eighth for the Indians, who are 14-8 for the first time since 2007, when they won 96.
Melky Cabrera homered and Alex Gordon extended his hitting streak to 19 games for the Royals. Kansas City has dropped four in a row.
Masterson’s reversal has been one of the keys to the Indians’ quick start. He finished strong in 2010, and has carried it over into this season. Of his five wins, four have come following a Cleveland loss and he’s gone at least six innings in each start.
He was pulled in the seventh with the Indians up only 4-3 and the tying run at second.
Reliever Tony Sipp came on and struck out Chris Getz, but the left-hander loaded the bases with none out in the eighth. Manager Manny Acta brought in Vinnie Pestano, who worked out of the mess by getting two popups and a strikeout.
Choo’s third homer gave the Indians some breathing room in the seventh. Hannahan and Asdrubal Cabrera singled before Royals manager Ned Yost pulled Hochevar. Choo, who came in batting just .207, then blasted Coleman’s first offering into the bullpen in center.
While the Indians’ strong start may have surprised many around baseball, Acta always believed his team would be contending from the outset. And as for his club battling Kansas City for first in the AL Central, Acta couldn’t care if it’s April or October.
“It’s good for baseball,” he said. “It’s good for both cities, both fan bases. Despite how early it is, we’re happy about it.”
Matt LaPorta and Hannahan connected for back-to-back homers with one out in the fifth, giving the Indians a 4-2 lead.
LaPorta jumped on Hochevar’s first pitch, driving it over the wall in left and onto the concrete walkway terrace, where fans scrambled for the souvenir of LaPorta’s third homer.
Hannahan then pulled a 1-2 pitch over the right-field fence for his third career two-homer game.
Masterson opened by retiring 10 straight — five on grounders — before Melky Cabrera skittered a single under diving second baseman Orlando Cabrera’s glove. Gordon followed with an RBI double and scored on Billy Butler’s double into the right-field corner.
Jeff Francoeur singled to extend his hitting streak to 15 games, but Masterson kept it tied by getting Kila Ka’aihue to rap into an inning-ending double play.
Hannahan’s third homer gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead in the third.
NOTES — Sizemore’s double in the first was the 200th of his career. He’s the first player in franchise history with 200 doubles, 100 homers and 100 steals. ... Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco, who left his previous start after three innings with elbow tightness, will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday. If it goes well and he’s not sore on Thursday, he’s expected to make his start on Saturday against Detroit. ... The Indians are the only team yet to throw out a base stealer. Opponents are 14 for 14 in steal attempts.