Kluber and Bullpen Clubbed in Sixth; Blue Jays 11, Indians 4

Did the Tribe Win Last Night? Nope. After a back and forth contest in the early innings, the Toronto Blue Jays took the lead for good in the top of the fifth inning and blew it open in the top of the sixth, en route to a 11-4 victory.

Corey Kluber tossed another good, but not great, game. Officially, he was charged with five runs over five innings, allowing eight hits, two walks and striking out three. Unofficially, he pitched the Indians into the sixth inning with a chance to win, but still trailing 4-2. It was the bullpen that again imploded and created large deficit.

Kluber started the sixth inning, but a double by Kevin Pillar led Indians manager Terry Francona to excuse him from the game. Marc Rzepczynski only retired one of his three hitters before giving way to Anthony Swarzak, who allowed four runs to score while only recording an out. The crushing blow was a double by Jose Bautista, plating two runs and making it 8-2. Toronto would add a pair more to make it 10-2 before the inning was over. The Blue Jays never looked back and took their second game of three played in the four game series.

Rookie Aaron Sanchez pitched five and two-third innings, allowing a pair of runs on four hits, six walks and five strikeouts. The former top prospect earned his second win of the season as a starting pitcher.

WP: Sanchez (2-2)                LP: Kluber (0-4)

Key Inning: Top of the fifth inning. After both teams traded a pair of single tallies in the first four innings, the Blue Jays took control of the game in the top of the fifth. Toronto had plated a run in the top of the fourth on a Russell Martin solo home run. In the top of the fifth, Ezequiel Carrera singled to start the inning before Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson each walked to load the bases with no one out. Bautista made the Indians and Kluber pay with a single up the middle to plate Carrera and Travis to make it 4-2.

Kluber was able to minimize the damage, enducing Edwin Encarnacion to ground into a double play. Then, he ended the inning when Martin grounded out to second base.

It wasn’t a big inning, it was the decisive inning in the game. Kluber provided another solid effort in this game, but it wasn’t enough to earn the win. Toronto later tacked on enough runs to put the game out of reach, but the fifth inning did the Tribe in. After one hitter in the sixth, Kluber was done and the bullpen unraveled to another loss.

Player of the Game: Jose Bautista. If anyone can get a marquee hitter, hot, it’s the Cleveland Indians. After igniting Miguel Cabrera and Jose Abreu’s seasons, the Indians have got Bautista going. Entering the series hitting under .200, he went 2-for-5 today, driving in four and upping his average to .203. Bautista has had hits in each of the last two games of the series, too.

They Said It: “Things have happened. An error. Some hits. It’s now 9-2 Blue Jays in the 6th inning,” MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) tweeted during the sixth inning. A throwing error by Lonnie Chisenhall kept the inning alive, mounting the damage.

Standings: Cleveland drops to 8-15 on the season, mired in last place. Currently they are eight games back, while Detroit and Kansas City battle one another for first place in the division this evening. Toronto improves to 12-13, good enough to keep them 3.5 games back of first place New York in the American League East Division.

Etc.: The Indians named their Minor League Player of the Month for April. On the pitcher side, it was right-hander Cody Anderson. At Double-A Akron, he posted a 2-1 record with a 1.12 ERA. On the offensive side, Bradley Zimmer took home the award. At High-A Lynchburg he hit .347, with four home runs and 12 runs driven in, in his first 20 games of the year.

Analysis: Kluber is coming back to life. That isn’t meant to be an insult or put down, just a reality. Last year was likely his career year, crowned with a Cy Young Award. But the reality is he is a good starter, not a great starter. He’s very comparable to Charles Nagy in my mind in end result—not stuff. Nagy and Kluber will both give you a very solid effort against anyone, but they aren’t at an elite level. There is still time in Kluber’s 2015 season, and his career, to exceed those expectations—but being compared to Nagy is no insult.

Kluber has now only received 12 runs of support in his six starts in 2015.

Up Next: Sunday the Blue Jays and Indians will conclude their four game series. The Indians will send their best pitcher this season, Trevor Bauer (2-0, 1.80) to the mound. Toronto will counter with Drew Hutchison (2-0, 6.67).

Photo: Phil Long/AP Photo

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