Only a few hours before the 2014 MLB All-Stars are to be announced, Corey Kluber again proved why he is the most deserving Indians’ pitcher on the roster to be named to the American League All-Star ballot as his performance, coupled with early-inning home runs, carried the Indians to a 4-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals and allowed them to take the series, 2-1, from the Royals, their second straight series win.
Sunday’s rubber match paired Kluber against the Royals’ Danny Duffy, one of the staff’s most dominant pitchers, though he sank to a 5-8 record following Kansas City’s loss. Sunday marked Kluber’s third game of the season in which he pitched eight-plus innings, and he improved to 8-6 on the season.
Sunday’s game was preceded by the news that Michael Bourn will be on the disabled list after suffering a left hamstring sprain. In his absence, outfielder Tyler Holt was called up from AAA Columbus, and Jason Kipnis replaced Bourn in the leadoff spot in the lineup.
The Indians struck first in the bottom of the second inning, when Carlos Santana smacked his thirteenth home run of the year with no outs. His homer was followed by a single from Ryan Raburn, who scored on a two-run home run from Yan Gomes, his tenth time going yard this season. Mike Aviles hit a two-out double to continue the inning, marking the fourth hit off Duffy in the inning. Kipnis struck out to end the inning, though the Indians held a 3-0 lead heading into the third.
Kluber gave up his first of the game in the third inning when Jarrod Dyson hit a one-out single. Dyson then stole second with Christian Colon at the plate for Kansas City. Dyson could not advance, though, as Colon struck out swinging and Lorenzo Cain lined out to second to end the top of the inning.
Michael Brantley singled with one out in the bottom of the third, thought could also not do any damage as Santana hit into a double play to prevent Brantley from moving further around the bases.
Nick Swisher continued his semi-streak of production as he singled in the bottom of the fourth with one out. He did not advance, however, as Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall both popped out to get outs two and three.
Kansas City got on the board in the top of the first when, with one out, Mike Moustakas hit a solo home run to right field, shortening the Indians’ lead to 3-1. Kluber came right back and posted his seventh strikeout of the game, though, striking out Escobar. The Indians threatened in the bottom of the fifth, however, as Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera both singled with one out, putting runners at first and second for Michael Brantley. Brantley responded with a single, scoring Kipnis to give the Tribe a 4-1 lead. Santana hit into an out at first to get the second out of the inning, though he advanced Cabrera and Brantley to second and third for Raburn’s at-bat. Raburn struck out to end the inning, however, stranding the runners.
Kluber whiffed his eighth batter of the game in a scoreless sixth inning, having allowed just one run on three hits at that point in the game. The Indians had their tenth hit of the game off Duffy in the bottom of the sixth, as Gomes hit a one-out double. Chisenhall and Aviles both struck out to end the inning, giving Duffy six strikeouts on the game.
Kluber walked Moustakas in the seventh inning, though he did not score again as Escobar flew out to end the inning. Kluber also earned his ninth strikeout of the game in the top of seventh when he struck out Danny Valencia.
Scott Downs came to the mound for the Royals in the bottom of the seventh to face the top of the Indians’ order. He retired Kipnis, Cabrera, and Brantley in order to bring the game into the eighth inning, as Kluber returned to the mound for the Tribe. The Royals were also retired in order. Bruce Chen pitched a scoreless eighth, though he walked Nick Swisher with two outs in the bottom of the inning, but gave up no hits.
Kluber came on again to start the ninth inning, as Holt was also brought into the game to make his first Major League appearance in right field. Kluber gave up his fourth hit of the game, a lead-off double to Eric Hosmer, to start the ninth. He followed the hit by issuing a strikeout to Salvador Perez, his tenth of the game. Kluber was then removed in favor of Cody Allen, who entered the ninth with one out. Allen threw four pitches to retire Raul Ibanez and Valencia, and Holt made the final out of the game as he caught Valencia’s fly ball hit to right field. Allen earned his ninth save of the season with the Indians’ win.
The Indians start a four game series with the New York Yankees tomorrow at Progressive Field, when Justin Masterson (4-5, 5.16) will attempt to improve his season as he faces off against the Yankee southpaw Vidal Nuno (2-5, 5.42).
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images