Indians Provide Kluber With Plenty of Support in Shutout; Indians 8, A’s 0
Bob Toth | On 31, Jul 2016
Powered by a five-run third inning and seven shutout innings from starter Corey Kluber, the Cleveland Indians completed the three-game sweep of the Oakland A’s, 8-0, on Sunday afternoon.
A rain delay to start the game could not put a damper on the Indians’ attitude, positive and energetic after the club acquired reliever Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees to start the day. Even Jonathan Lucroy vetoing his trade to Cleveland could not slow down the Tribe’s offense.
Kluber faced one over the minimum through the first four innings, allowing a two-out double to Yonder Alonso in the second and a leadoff single to Max Muncy in the third. Muncy was erased on a double play grounder by Coco Crisp.
Cleveland put a five spot on the board in the third inning to give Kluber all of the support that he would need against Oakland ace Sonny Gray. Tyler Naquin singled to start things off and Abraham Almonte used his newly discovered bat to move Naquin to second with his own single. A walk by Roberto Perez after several failed attempts to bunt loaded the bases. After a strikeout by Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis lined his first pitch into right field for a two-run single to give the Indians a lead. A wild pitch by Gray came up costly as Francisco Lindor hit his MLB-leading eleventh sacrifice fly of the year to make it 3-0 and Mike Napoli drilled a homer to the bleachers to make it 5-0.
The Tribe expanded that lead in the fourth by getting each of their first five batters on base. Lonnie Chisenhall singled, but was thrown out at third on a single by Naquin. Almonte singled to right and Perez delivered the rare base hit, scoring Naquin to make it 6-0. Santana walked to load the bases and Bob Melvin brought on Daniel Coulombe to relieve Gray. Kipnis made it a 7-0 game with a sacrifice fly to left to score Almonte.
Almonte came up the next inning and made it an eight-spot with a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Napoli, who had started the inning with a walk and moved to third on a double to right by Jose Ramirez.
Cleveland (60-42) earned the series sweep by knocking off Oakland again on a day much more subdued than the previous day after Billy Butler’s jawing and bat flip had things temporarily tense on Saturday. The win evened the Indians’ record for July at 12-12 and the eight-spot gave them a positive run differential for the fourth straight month of the season. The A’s (47-58) leave town for Los Angeles after the sweep and finished the month with a 13-13 record, but were outscored by 30 runs.
KLUBER GETS PLENTY OF SUPPORT
He gave Cleveland seven shutout innings, allowing five hits and a pair of walks on the afternoon. He struck out seven, including four A’s the first time through the lineup.
“He came out of the chute firing strikes, got a couple early strikeouts,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Usually with Klubs, when he gets off to that good start and feels good, he continues it. He was really good.”
In his last four home starts, he is 4-0 with a 0.30 ERA.
THE MAGIC NUMBER IS FOUR
Sunday’s game was the 48th career game that Kluber has been granted four runs or more of support by his teammates. He has a record of 37-1 in those games and the Indians as a whole are 43-5 in such contests.
BIG INNING GRAY’S UNDOING
Gray (5-10, 5.84) continued his curious and disappointing season for Oakland with his tenth loss of the season. He could not complete the fourth inning, lasting just three and one-third on the day. He was charged with seven runs on eight hits on the day, walking two and striking out three. The five-run third inning was his undoing.
He threw 43 of 64 pitches for strikes and threw first pitch strikes to 13 of 19 batters faced.
“I look at his numbers and I’m trying to figure out where the runs are coming from. Maybe today is another example because I thought out of the chute that he looked like the same old Sonny Gray,” said Francona. “Breaking ball, fastball, cutting it, kinda slicing through us. We didn’t just score, but we broke through and then Nap hits the next one. Obviously it helps us. We’ve seen him pitch so well. When you watch him, it just doesn’t look like the ERA adds up to what he’s pitching.”
Napoli’s home run in the third inning was his 24th blast of the year, but it was also a historic hit in his career. It marked the 1,000th of the career for the eleven-year pro.
UNLIKELY SAC FLY LEADER
The sacrifice fly in the third by Lindor was the eleventh of his season, expanding his Major League lead in the run-scoring statistic. The next closest player is Milwaukee’s Chris Carter, who has eight sac flies to his name this season.
Sunday’s game marked the first time on the homestand that the Indians scored first. They are now 44-14 this season when scoring the first run of the ball game.
ANOTHER SERIES SWEEP
The sweep over the Athletics marked the tenth series sweep of the season for the Indians. The club has swept two two-game series, seven three-game series, and one four-game set. By comparison, the Indians have been swept just three times this season, all three-gamers.
The start of the game was delayed 36 minutes by rain.
Santana looked to be in some discomfort during his final at bat of the game, grabbing his left hamstring after fouling a pitch off.
“His right hamstring started cramping on him,” said Francona. “We’ve all had that. It’s not fun. He’s not hurt. It kinda came back again, for the time being, it just kinda hurts, it locked up.”
INDIANS ACQUIRE MILLER, LOSE OUT ON LUCROY
Prior to the game, the Indians announced the acquisition of reliever Miller from the New York Yankees for four minor leaguers. Cleveland sent top prospect Clint Frazier, a top pitching prospect in southpaw Justus Sheffield, and a pair of relievers, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen, to complete the deal.
“There’s definitely a good vibe in the locker room,” said Kluber. “You could tell that there was maybe a little more excitement than normal for 9 o’clock in the morning. He definitely helps make us a better team.”
Lucroy exercised his no-trade clause in his contract and vetoed his trade from Milwaukee to Cleveland. Reasons have been speculated, but have not been confirmed. Rumors ran from the Indians being unwilling to decline his team option for next season to Lucroy being upset about not being guaranteed a starting catching position on the club for next year.
The Indians will welcome the Minnesota Twins into town on Monday for a four-game series. Salazar (11-3, 2.97) will take the mound in the series opener, while the Twins had not announced a starter by the end of the Indians-A’s game on Sunday afternoon.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images