Kluber K’s 13 as Tribe Blanks Tigers; Indians 2, Tigers 0
Bob Toth | On 09, Apr 2018
The two-run home run had been an issue in each of Corey Kluber’s first two starts. On Monday night, it was his best friend. A key and needed blast from Bradley Zimmer in the fifth inning gave the Indians’ ace just enough run support and his eight innings of dominant pitching gave Cleveland a 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on another chilly day from Progressive Field.
In his defense of his second Cy Young Award, Kluber has looked like a pitcher with postseason aspirations and more hardware in mind as he has put up impressive numbers once again on the mound for the Tribe. But despite his best efforts, the Indians had dropped both of his first two starts as two-run home runs (one by Seattle’s Nelson Cruz in the season opener and another by Los Angeles’ Shohei Ohtani in his second start) off of the right-hander and minimal run support had kept Kluber out of the win column. That changed on Monday, as while the Tribe bats remained ice cold on another frigid night in Cleveland, he made the two runs of support that he received stand up as the Indians (5-5) moved back to .500 with their first consecutive wins of the 2018 campaign.
Kluber was in a groove on the slab all game long, striking out 13 while holding the new look Tigers lineup in check while waiting for his teammates to get the bats going against long-time divisional rival Francisco Liriano. The 34-year-old southpaw made his second consecutive quality start, but Detroit’s inability to generate anything against the Indians pitching staff left him on the short end.
Kluber struck out a pair in each of the first two innings, giving up just a one-out single to Victor Martinez in the latter frame. He referred to a recipe that he would use all game long, getting ahead of batters quickly and oftentimes finding himself in 0-2 counts, something he did to four of the first nine batters. He added another strikeout in the third and two more in the fourth, working around a two-out single by Nicholas Castellanos in the fourth frame.
Liriano, meanwhile, breezed through the lineup with ease early on, retiring the side in order on eleven, eleven, and ten pitches. In the bottom of the fourth, he lost the zone, taking Francisco Lindor to a full count before a fly out and then missing on eight of his next ten pitches, walking Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez to bring the dangerous Edwin Encarnacion to the plate. Looking for a first pitch strike, Encarnacion pounced quickly and grounded sharply up the middle in between Liriano’s legs, but right into the shift where second baseman Dixon Machado started a 4-3 double play to end the threat.
Kluber struck out the side in order in the fifth, using a diet of curves, sinkers, and cutters to retire the six, seven, and eight hitters while pushing his strikeout total to ten through his first five innings.
Still hitless heading into the home half, the Indians fixed that problem with a two-out base knock from Yan Gomes to left. Zimmer got a 1-1 slider over the plate and he put a charge in it, driving it 417 feet to right-center for a two-run blast, putting the Indians up, 2-0.
The runs would prove to be enough for Kluber, who worked out of his only real jam of the night in the sixth. Leonys Martin drew a walk with one out, but was erased on a fielder’s choice to second off of the bat of Jeimer Candelario. The biggest threat in the Tigers lineup, Miguel Cabrera, and his good career numbers against Kluber came to the plate with a chance to cut into the lead or even tie the ball game, but he lined out sharply to Lindor at short to keep it a two-run game.
The Indians got a one-out single from Ramirez in the sixth, but could get him no further than second base against Liriano. Rajai Davis greeted reliever Buck Farmer in the seventh with a leadoff double to left and after a one-out walk by Zimmer, Drew VerHagen came on as Farmer left with a hip injury. Davis and Zimmer attempted a double steal, but Zimmer was thrown out at second by catcher James McCann after a review. Erik Gonzalez struck out swinging to leave a big insurance run at third in the 2-0 game.
Kluber, who struck out his eleventh batter in the seventh, added two more in the eighth, setting down the bookend batters looking to conclude his night. Andrew Miller came on to face his former team in the ninth in a save situation and promptly hit JaCoby Jones in the foot, but he bounced back to strike out Candelario looking before enducing a game-ending double play grounder to short by Cabrera. The save for Miller was his first of the year.
Detroit fell to 4-5 with the defeat while losing its first game on the road this season.
KLUBER IN CY FORM
Kluber was in midseason form once again and avoided the dreaded two-run home run that has cost him in each of his first two outings. He went eight superb innings, allowing two hits and striking out 13 while walking just one batter. Seventy-two of his 103 pitches crossed for strikes and he worked ahead all night long, throwing first pitch strikes to 21 of the 27 batters that he faced while getting ten different 0-2 counts during his start.
NO LUCK FOR LIRIANO
Liriano was good on the mound for the Tigers while in search of his first victory against the Indians since 2010, but he will have to wait a while longer to notch the W. He worked a quality six innings in defeat, allowing a pair of runs on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
The Indians and Tigers will kick off game two of the four-game series on Tuesday at 6:10 PM ET.
Detroit will send left-hander Matthew Boyd (0-1, 1.50) to the mound, coming off of a quality start against Kansas City his first time out despite earning the loss after allowing just a run on four hits.
Cleveland will call on right-hander Josh Tomlin (0-1, 24.00), who was rocked for eight runs in three innings in his first start of the season and was pushed back to allow Kluber to stay on normal rest.
TODAY’S TRIBE TRIVIA
In August of 1960, Cleveland general manager Frank Lane consummated a bizarre trade of managers with Detroit. Name the two skippers relocated in the deal (one of whom was a Hall of Famer during his playing career).
The Indians and Tigers have not made a trade since 2010. Name the players involved in the late July swap.
Cleveland signed this two-time American League MVP to a one-year contract after his only season in Detroit. The outfielder would be an All-Star for the Tribe and finished fifth in the MVP voting. Following the season, he went back to his old stomping grounds in Arlington with the Rangers. He later returned to the Indians and had a painful final Major League at bat while with the club.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images