Three quick runs in the first were more than enough for New York, but they added three more sun-aided runs in the second as Steven Matz and the Mets bullpen combined on a three-hit shutout versus Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians on Sunday afternoon.
Three hitters into the game, the Mets had a run on the board and added two more two batters later as Kluber dug himself an early hole. Curtis Granderson walked to start the game and moved to second on a single from Asdrubal Cabrera. Michael Conforto plated one with a shot to deep right center for a double and two batters later, Lucas Duda’s first pitch single to right brought home both runners in scoring position.
Things got much more ugly in the second after Kluber got two quick outs. Granderson came up with a sun-aided triple on a ball lost in the skies by Rajai Davis in center. Cabrera dropped a surprise bunt that Kluber barehanded, but his throw to first sailed high as his feet came out from under him, allowing Granderson to score and Cabrera to move to second. Conforto immediately cashed in again, dropping an RBI-double into right to score Cabrera with the fifth run. Still with two outs, Yoenis Cespedes lifted a routine fly ball to center, but no ball in the air was routine Sunday as Davis again lost the ball in the sun and it dropped five feet to his left. Conforto scored and the Mets had an insurmountable 6-0 lead.
“On the first one, he lost it towards the end. I think the only thing he maybe could have done was try to give Ramirez a chance because he didn’t see it,” said Indians manager Terry Francona during the postgame press conference on the outfield struggles of Davis Sunday. “The second one, he looked up right from the get-go and never had a chance. I’m sure that’s an awful feeling, feel probably pretty naked. So we started playing him a little bit out of position just so he could get a better angle. I think he got one more ball that he caught out in right-center.”
The Indians would muster just three hits and a pair of walks on the sun-soaked afternoon and just twice got runners into scoring position. In the second with two outs, Yan Gomes singled and moved up to second on a walk from Marlon Byrd. Juan Uribe grounded into a fielder’s choice, 5-4 on the putout at second, to end the inning.
In the fourth, Francisco Lindor doubled to right to start the inning and moved to third two outs later on a groundout from Carlos Santana. The lone runner to stand 90 feet from the plate for the Tribe was stranded there as Gomes struck out to end the inning.
Cleveland falls back to the .500 mark with the loss. They are now 5-5 on the season. New York pulls within a game of the .500 mark at 5-6 and improves to 3-2 on the road in 2016.
Kluber would settle in after the rough start and gave the Indians six innings of work on the mound while striking out eight.
“Walk the leadoff hitter, then gave up an 0-2 hit, so he’s pitching out of the stretch right out the get-go,” said Francona. “He got hurt with his fastball early. In the second inning, he’s got a chance for an easy inning. Two outs, get the fly ball, and it turned into three more. That hurt a lot.”
NOTHING NEW AS NO SUPPORT GIVEN TO KLUBER
As has become the norm with Kluber (0-3, 6.16 ERA) on the mound, the Indians failed him at the plate. As much as the six runs allowed hurt from Kluber’s contributions, a team cannot win when supported with no runs.
“We’ve just got to score him some runs. He’s a guy that goes out there and we really don’t give him too much run support,” said Napoli after the game. “We’ve got to make the adjustment to get on top early and let him settle in.”
“I can’t speak for the guys. It doesn’t seem like there’s a different mood in the dugout than any other night,” said Kluber postgame of the lack of offensive support from his teammates. “You can’t let those things get to you. It’s your job to go out there and put up zeros regardless of what happens on the other side.”
Matz (1-1, 7.27) more than made up for a disastrous first start to his season. He gave the Mets seven scoreless innings, giving up three hits and two walks on 94 pitches while striking out a career-high nine Indians hitters.
“Once he got through the order and we didn’t do anything, you could see him kind of loosen up and started throwing his breaking ball, his changeup, everything for strikes,” said Francona. “He’s got velocity. He throws it downhill. But then he started just getting comfortable, you could tell, and that’s a lot of times what happens with good pitchers.”
MORE METS MARVELS
Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins, and Addison Reed pitched a combined two scoreless innings of relief. They struck out six batters in that span, including four in the ninth by the final two relievers after Lindor reached on a dropped third strike.
WAKING THE SLEEPING GIANT
The Mets had scored 20 runs in their first eight games while hitting .194 with two homers and eight doubles. During their series in Cleveland against the Indians, they hit .279 with seven homers, nine doubles, and drove home 17 runs in three games. They were aided Sunday by a 5-for-7 mark at the plate with runners in scoring position.
In addition to the Lindor double and the Gomes single, Davis reached in the third inning with a bunt single between the mound and first base that he narrowly beat to the bag.
SEE YOU TUESDAY
After playing six straight games, the Indians will take Monday off to regroup before hosting the Seattle Mariners for three games beginning Tuesday night. All three start times are unusual, as the first two games of the series will be 6:10 PM ET first pitches, while Thursday’s getaway day will be a 12:10 PM ET start.
Photos: AP Photo/David Dermer