Kluber Appears Human as Twins Take Series Opener; Twins 6, Indians 3
Bob Toth | On 15, Jun 2018
A bearded imposter, resembling staff ace Corey Kluber, took the mound at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on Friday night for the Indians and allowed four runs during a quick 65-pitch effort over five innings in a 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
It was a rare night in Cleveland as for the first time in a long time, the tried and true Kluber did not have his A-game on the mound for the Indians. Even then, he still gave the Tribe five innings and allowed just four runs while leaving with plenty of pitches still left in the tank. Cleveland fell in an early hole, aided by two home runs, two errors, and a balk, and its offense was unable to get anything going until the latter innings against Kyle Gibson and the Minnesota bullpen.
The second batter of the game set the odd tone for the evening. Kluber retired Joe Mauer in his first at bat off of the disabled list, but Eddie Rosario jumped on the first pitch that he saw. Seeing a sinker down and in, in typical Rosario fashion he whipped his hands quickly through the strike zone and put a charge into the ball, sending it 418 feet into the seats in right-center to put the Twins up by a 1-0 count. Kluber retired the next two with no problems and set down the side in order in the second before a wasted opportunity from the Indians lineup.
Gibson worked a quiet first, walking Michael Brantley with one out before getting the final two outs in the air. He got the first two outs in the second before back-to-back singles from Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin put a runner in scoring position. Erik Gonzalez, the Tribe’s first baseman for the night, could not deliver, lining sharply to short to strand a pair.
Kluber gave up a leadoff single to Ehire Adrianza to start the third, but got the aid of a double play ball from Ryan LaMarre to short circuit the inning. The top of the Tribe’s order went down in order in the home half.
Things quickly changed in the fourth. Rosario doubled to right and Kluber’s long walk-less streak came to an end when he put on Eduardo Escobar on a five-pitch free pass. Logan Morrison grounded to first, but a run scored on the play as Gonzalez retired Escobar at second, but Francisco Lindor’s return throw was behind Kluber trying to cover the bag, allowing Rosario to score on the wild toss. Two pitches later, Brian Dozier busted his long hitting slump and exited stage left with a two-run blast, giving the Twins a 4-0 lead.
The Indians went down in order in the fourth again, and Kluber did the same in a quick and quiet fifth in what would prove to be his final inning of the game.
Cleveland got a leadoff walk from Chisenhall in the bottom of the fifth, but three straight grounders left a runner on base. Terry Francona went to his bullpen for the sixth, but they could not stop the Twins as Tyler Olson gave up two straight singles with one out to Escobar and Morrison. Dan Otero came on and got a fielder’s choice from Dozier that pushed across Escobar as Lindor committed his second error of the night on a high-bouncing chopper. Max Kepler grounded out to move both runners into scoring position, and Otero balked Morrison home before retiring Mitch Garver on a grounder to end the inning with Minnesota on top, 6-0.
The Indians would finally get to Gibson in the home half as the right-hander got himself into trouble with a one-out walk of Jose Ramirez and a two-out walk of Jason Kipnis to put two on for Yan Gomes. The Tribe catcher attempted to pick up his battery mates some, singling to center to drive home Ramirez. Chisenhall, however, could not come through with two on and two outs, striking out swinging to end the inning.
Otero returned for the seventh and gave a perfect inning. After Gibson retired the side in order in the bottom half, Josh Tomlin pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. Trevor Hildenberger took over for Paul Molitor’s Twins in the bottom of the eighth, giving up a single that turned into the second out when Ramirez was thrown out trying to stretch his base hit to two bases. Tomlin pitched a second inning in the ninth and produced the same results, getting three straight outs to bring up the Tribe bats, down 6-1, with one final chance.
Left-hander Taylor Rogers came on for Minnesota in the bottom of the ninth and got Kipnis on a fly out, but Gomes sent a fastball deep to center field for a solo shot, his second RBI of the game. Brandon Guyer pinch-hit for Chisenhall and grounded out before Rajai Davis, pinch-hitting for Naquin, reached on an infield single. Gonzalez made it a 6-3 game with a double to deep right, forcing Molitor to go back to his bullpen and use closer Fernando Rodney in a save situation. He struck out Lindor swinging for the one-out save, giving the Twins their fifth win in seven attempts over the Indians this season.
Gibson got the win, his first since his first start of the season in March. He allowed just a run on three hits with four walks and three strikeouts. Rodney’s save was his 15th of the season.
Kluber took the loss, his third of the season, in his shortest outing since his final regular season start during the 2017 campaign. He left after just 65 pitches thrown in five innings, allowing four runs (all earned) on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts. The walk of Escobar was the first one that he had allowed since May 8 against Milwaukee. The four runs marked a season-high for runs allowed for Kluber, who had entered the game with 14 consecutive quality starts to open the year and 26 straight starts dating back to July 29, 2017, of three runs or less surrendered. The three strikeouts marked the fewest in a start for the righty since recording three against Chicago in five innings on September 30 of last season, and the 65 pitches are his fewest in a game since leaving his May 2, 2017, start against the Detroit Tigers injured after 55 pitches.
“I guess he proved he’s human,” said manager Francona after the game. “He doesn’t look like it very often.”
The Twins had six hits on the night against Indians pitching, with two hits and two runs coming from Rosario. They left just one base runner on the night. The Indians had the opposite problem, stranding seven base runners with a 1-for-5 effort with runners in scoring position. Gomes had a pair of hits and drove in two runs in the only real highlight for the Tribe at the plate.
Prior to the game, the Twins activated Mauer from the 10-day disabled list and recalled infielder Taylor Motter, recently claimed on waivers from the Seattle Mariners. No roster moves were necessary as Minnesota had optioned third baseman Miguel Sano and outfielder Jake Cave to the minors on Thursday.
The Indians activated Naquin from his own stint on the 10-day disabled list after missing more than a month with a left hamstring strain suffered in early May. He extended his split hitting streak to nine straight games with a single. Yonder Alonso was placed on the Family Medical Emergency list to create a roster spot for Naquin, where he will remain for the next three to seven days. When he returns, outfielder Greg Allen is expected to be optioned back to Triple-A Columbus.
Game two of the three-game set is scheduled for a 4:10 PM ET first pitch from Progressive Field on Saturday. Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (8-4, 3.90 ERA) will be the first man to the bump for the Tribe, looking to build on consecutive impressive starts for Cleveland. The Twins will send out 23-year-old rookie right-hander Fernando Romero (3-2, 3.92), who will make his first career appearance against the Indians and his ninth MLB start overall.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images