Kluber K’s Season-High 14 as Tribe Sweeps Toronto; Indians 8, Blue Jays 1
Bob Toth | On 23, Jul 2017
Corey Kluber showed no lingering effects from a sore neck that pushed him back several days in the Indians rotation as he struck out a season-high 14 batters and his offense gave him more than enough support in an 8-1 win on Sunday to complete the sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Indians got the series that they needed this weekend while facing their third straight cellar-dweller in a row. After a disappointing 1-5 road trip against the AL West’s worst in the Oakland A’s and the NL’s last place San Francisco Giants, the Jays came to Progressive Field to face an Indians team that had struggled at home all season, but one would have never known it based on the way the Tribe played.
On Sunday in the series finale, Cleveland followed the recipe that worked so well for the club last season in its run to the World Series – dominant starting pitching and timely offensive outbursts by the bats. Kluber led the pitching attack and the offense put up a big number for him again as the Indians improved to 51-45 on the season.
After Kluber quickly disposed of the Blue Jays in the top of the first, the Indians took a lead four pitches into the home half. Carlos Santana, back in the leadoff spot, singled on the second pitch from J.A. Happ. Francisco Lindor dropped down a well-placed bunt down the first base line on the next pitch and with the first pitch that he saw, Michael Brantley drove a single to center to score Santana to give the Indians the early lead. The scoring would not stop there, despite a fly out by Edwin Encarnacion for the first out. Jose Ramirez walked on four straight to load the bases and Brandon Guyer, who entered with a .111 average against Happ in 20 plate appearances in his career, unloaded the bases with a double to center to put the Indians out front, 4-0.
With a big lead to work with, Kluber responded by striking out the side in the second.
Kevin Pillar homered deep to left on the first pitch of the third inning against Kluber for the first Jays hit of the day. They would add two more hits in the fourth inning, when Josh Donaldson started the inning with a single and, two strikeouts later, Steve Pearce added one of his own, but Miguel Montero was retired to end the threat.
Cleveland tacked on to its lead in the bottom of the frame. Giovanny Urshela reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After a fly out to center by Santana, Lindor singled to right to plate his longtime friend with the fifth run of the game for the Indians.
Kluber worked around a two-out single by Darwin Barney in the fifth and a pair of one-out base runners in the sixth after Justin Smoak walked and Kendrys Morales singled. A double play ball by Pearce killed the rally.
Happ returned to the mound for the Jays in the bottom of the sixth, but the Indians used it as another opportunity to add to their lead against the veteran left-hander. Santana walked with one out and after Lindor lined to third, Brantley took three straight balls before sending the 3-0 pitch over the wall for his first home run since April 30. The two-run shot gave Cleveland a 7-1 lead.
Former Indians reliever Joe Smith came on for the seventh for Toronto and was nearly out of the inning before Abraham Almonte doubled to right and came in to score on a single by Yan Gomes to make it an 8-1 game.
Kluber came back out for the eighth and struck out Barney and Jose Bautista swinging for his fourth straight strikeout and his 14th of the game, a season-high. He had a chance to make it 15 as he battled with Donaldson for nine pitches, but Toronto’s star third baseman got the better of him in the end with a two-out walk. Nick Goody entered in relief and got Smaok to pop up in foul territory.
Tyler Olson made his second appearance with the Tribe in the ninth, giving up a single to Morales before ending the game with a double play ball.
Kluber earned win number eight of the season with seven and two-thirds innings of one-run baseball. He allowed five hits and two walks while setting his season-high bench mark for strikeouts at 14. Of the 120 pitches that he threw on the afternoon, 81 crossed for strikes and 23 were swinging strikes. The Tribe’s ace has now won 55 straight games when receiving four runs of support or more on the mound, a streak dating back to June 11, 2013 (h/t SportsTime Ohio). He is also one of two active pitchers (Chris Sale) with 108 strikeouts or more in a ten-start span (h/t again to SportsTime Ohio).
Happ faced 31 batters in six innings of work. He was charged with seven runs on nine hits with three walks and three strikeouts while taking his seventh loss of the season.
Lindor led the offensive attack with a three-hit game, a run scored, and one run batted in. Brantley drove in three with his two-hit performance, and Guyer added three on his first inning double.
The Indians were originally scheduled to take Monday off, but instead they will host the Cincinnati Reds for a makeup game from their rainout in Cleveland on May 25. Josh Tomlin will be the starter for the interleague contest. The Blue Jays will head back home to Toronto to take on Oakland from the Rogers Centre.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images