The Indians have desperately been searching for a quality start since Opening Day.
They finally found it Tuesday evening when Corey Kluber pitched a solid six innings and the Indians were able to take advantage of several San Diego mishaps to win 8-6 at Progressive Field despite a late-inning scare. Padres starter Tyson Ross received little help from his defense and the Indians’ offense remained hot from newcomer David Murphy.
The Tribe got on the board in the bottom of the third inning with the help of the Padres’ defense. Ross walked Yan Gomes and Murphy to start the inning, and after Gomes advanced to third base on a passed ball, Nyjer Morgan grounded to second base for a potential double play but Jed Gyorko threw the ball into left field. Gomes scored, Murphy advanced to third base and the Indians took a 1-0 lead.
Nick Swisher grounded out to first base to allow Murphy to score and Jason Kipnis hit a sacrifice fly to left field to allow Morgan to trot home. Cleveland led 3-0 after three innings, despite not getting a hit in the inning.
The Padres answered the Indians’ first blow with an offensive response in the top of the fourth. Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal doubled to right field to put a pair in scoring position. Gyorko put the Padres on the scoreboard when he doubled to center field to cut the Tribe lead to 3-2. Kluber minimized the damage when he got Tommy Medica to fly out and Alexi Amarista to strike out swinging.
Cleveland answered right back with more offense of their own in the bottom of the fourth with the help of more poor Padre defense. Asdrubal Cabrera reached safely on Ross’ error with one out. After Chisenhall singled, both he and Cabrera advanced to scoring position on Ross’ wild pitch. David Murphy brought them home on a slow trot when he jerked his first home run of the season into the right field seats. Murphy’s three-run shot put the Indians up 6-2.
San Diego did cut into the Tribe’s lead in the top of the sixth inning when Will Venable hit a ground rule double, followed by Gyorko’s single to left field. Venable scored and the Indians led just 6-3. Medica struck out swinging to end the top of the sixth and Kluber’s evening. Kluber (1-0) pitched six innings, allowing three runs on nine hits, but did not walk a batter and struck out eight. It was a major improvement from Kluber’s first start, a struggle in Oakland, and the Indians’ first quality start since their first game of the season.
Again, the Indians answered the Padres’ tally with more offense of their own in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Gomes hit a ground rule double that chased Ross from the game. Tim Stauffer took the mound for San Diego and was greeted with a double from Murphy and single from Morgan. Each hit drove in another run and the Indians extended their lead to 8-3. Ross (0-2) pitched five and one-third innings, allowing seven runs—just two earned—on five hits and five walks, while striking out two.
Marc Rzepczynski worked around a double by Everth Cabrera to pitch a scoreless seventh inning. Josh Outman started the eighth inning, but after Grandal singled to center field and Venable reached on a bunt single, Cody Allen was summoned to face Gyorko. Allen struck out Gyorko and Medica and the rally was thwarted.
Vinnie Pestano came on to pitch the ninth inning and allowed a leadoff home run to Xavier Nady. The Padres cut the deficit to 8-4 and then it got dicey. Chris Denorfia tripled to right field and Chase Headley struck out before Alonso grounded to first base to apparently end the game. However, Swisher botched the grounder, everyone was safe and Denorfia scored. Grandal singled to right field and the Padres quickly cut it to 8-6 and Indians manager Terry Francona was forced to call upon closer John Axford. Axford got Venable to fly out to center field and the Indians finally cinched their fourth victory of the season. Axford notched his third save of the season.
Cleveland made the most of their eight hits, scoring eight runs, capped by a pair of hits from Murphy and Gomes and three hits from Morgan. San Diego squandered their 15 hits, with their two errors. The Tribe worked around three defensive miscues of their own to get the win.
The Indians and Padres will play a traditional doubleheader Wednesday afternoon to make up for Monday’s rainout. Zach McAllister (0-0, 6.75) will start the first game for Cleveland, while San Diego will counter with left-hander Eric Stults (0-1, 11.25). Cleveland is expected to recall Trevor Bauer for the second game while the Padres will toss Robbie Erlin (0-0, 0.00).
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