Kluber KOs Royals for 18th Win of Season; Indians 3, Royals 1
Bob Toth | On 05, Sep 2018
With each start, Corey Kluber looks more and more ready for October baseball. The reigning Cy Young winner kept his name in that hat with a dominant six and two-thirds innings of two-hit baseball, striking out ten Royals in a 3-1 Indians win on Wednesday afternoon.
The Indians won back-to-back games for the first time in the month with a strong effort from their ace on getaway day. The right-hander made short work of the Royals through his 20 outs, and three men out of the bullpen combined to strike out six of the seven hitters that they faced in two and one-third perfect innings of relief.
Cleveland threatened in the first inning against Kansas City right-hander Brad Keller, a 23-year-old Rule 5 pick who has transitioned effectively into the starting rotation for the club. With two down in the first, Yandy Diaz drew a walk and Edwin Encarnacion singled him to third, but Yonder Alonso could not drive the runner in as he flied out to left.
Kluber struck out the side in the second before his offense gave him the lead. Keller struck out Melky Cabrera looking before a double by Jason Kipnis high off of the wall in left. Yan Gomes singled to center, but Kipnis held up at third instead of breaking for the plate and Gomes was thrown out trying to advance to second on the throw. Now with two down, Greg Allen salvaged the inning, slapping a single to left to put the Indians on the board, 1-0.
Kluber worked a perfect third and retired his tenth straight to open the fourth before the Royals ended his string of retired batters on a double to left by Alex Gordon. Hunter Dozier struck out swinging for the second out, but Ryan O’Hearn continued to torture Indians pitching with a triple to center, tying the game at one. It was to be the last hit the Royals would have on the afternoon as Emilio Bonifacio struck out swinging to lead the go-ahead run 90 feet from the plate.
The Indians wasted a leadoff single by Cabrera in the fourth, but came through with another run in the fifth with some help from the Royals defense to take the lead back. Michael Brantley singled to center off of Keller with one out and moved safely to third on an error by Alcides Escobar after a ground ball from Diaz. Encarnacion drove Brantley in with a grounder to third, with Diaz forced out at second for the second out. Alonso popped to short to end the inning.
Kluber retired eight in a row before walking O’Hearn with one down in the seventh. He struck out Bonifacio swinging for his tenth K on the 105th and final pitch of his day. Oliver Perez entered in the 2-1 game for manager Terry Francona and struck out Brian Goodwin to end the inning.
Cody Allen worked the eighth, throwing just four of 18 pitches for balls while striking out a pair. The Indians then tacked on an insurance run in the bottom half against Keller and the KC bullpen. Alonso singled off of Keller and Brandon Guyer dropped down a bunt towards third. Dozier’s throwing error on the play allowed both runners to move into scoring position. Brian Flynn came on in relief and gave up a sacrifice fly to Kipnis to make it a 3-1 game before he struck out Gomes and got G. Allen to line to right.
The Indians cut their magic number to clinch the American League Central down to single digits at nine with their 79th win of the season. The Tribe is now 44-28 on the year.
The Royals fell to 46-93 on the season and are now 21-48 on the road. After winning six straight, they have dropped two in a row.
Kluber worked six and two-thirds innings in another impressive showing as he won for the sixth time in his last seven decisions. He allowed just three base runners on the day, with two coming in the fourth on the only two hits by the Royals on the day. He struck out ten, his largest single game total since May 30 against the Chicago White Sox. He improved to 18-7 on the season, taking over the Major League lead in victories, while dropping his ERA to 2.75.
Eight of the nine Royals hitters struck out in the contest. Bonifacio and Goodwin each accomplished the hat trick.
Keller was dealt a tough loss after working around trouble throughout the day. He pitched two batters into the eighth inning, allowing three runs (one earned) on eleven hits with a walk and five strikeouts on 99 pitches (69 strikes). The Royals held the Indians offense to a 2-for-10 showing at the plate with runners in scoring position while leaving nine men on base.
The Indians will kick off a four-game series in Toronto with the Blue Jays on Thursday, with Shane Bieber (8-3, 4.66 ERA) on the bump for Cleveland. The Royals are off to Minnesota, where they will play the Twins in three games beginning Friday.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images