The Texas Rangers used two early home runs and some big insurance runs in the eighth to knock out Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday by a 7-3 final from Progressive Field.
Both clubs’ starters, Kluber and Colby Lewis, worked easily through the first two innings before the Rangers struck for first blood in the third and did so quickly. Ohio native Jared Hoying singled to right and Bryan Holaday homered to left on the next pitch, putting Texas on top, 2-0. They added another run with two outs in the fifth as Jurickson Profar hit his first homer of the season, sending the first pitch of his at bat into the seats in right to extend the Rangers’ lead to 3-0.
The Indians squandered a chance to score off of Lewis in the third, when Lonnie Chisenhall singled to lead off the inning and Rajai Davis followed with a first station hit to left with one out. A grounder to first by Carlos Santana moved both runners up, but put the second out on the scoreboard, and Jason Kipnis popped up angrily to left to end the threat.
They put two more on in the sixth, as Santana walked with one out and Francisco Lindor walked with two outs, but Mike Napoli grounded to third to end the inning.
With a new arm on the mound in the seventh, Tony Barnette, Cleveland finally put a mark in the runs column. Jose Ramirez singled to right and after a strikeout from Marlon Byrd, Chisenhall hit a no-doubter to the seats in right, his first of the year, to make it a 3-2 deficit for the Tribe.
Kluber returned for the eighth, but it was a move that would backfire for Indians manager Terry Francona. Holaday hit a weak single to left and Profar followed suit with a shot that was just out of the reach of Byrd in left. Ian Desmond jumped on the first pitch he saw and doubled off of the base of the wall in right center, scoring both runners and ending Kluber’s evening with a stat line much more worse for the wear. Bryan Shaw took over on the mound and got Prince Fielder to ground Desmond to third before Adrian Beltre cleared Davis’s head in center with a double to make it a 6-2 Texas lead.
Shawn Armstrong came on for the ninth and allowed another insurance run as Elvis Andrus singled to center, stole second base, and scored on a single to center by Hoying.
Cleveland added one more in the ninth but fell four short after three straight singles by Ramirez, Byrd, and Chisenhall off of the much-troubled Matt Bush. He was replaced by Sam Dyson, who got a fielder’s choice and a strikeout to close out the ball game with his sixth save of the year.
The Indians (26-24) have entered an unpleasant downward spiral since their one-day achievement of holding the top spot in the American League Central. They have dropped three straight. The Rangers (31-21) have now won nine of their last eleven games and are 13-12 away from home.
KLUBER RESULTS DO NOT REFLECT HIS OUTING
Two early home run balls leading to three runs were the extent of the damage allowed by Kluber (4-6, 4.15 ERA) through the majority of his first seven innings on the mound. Upon taking the mound in the eighth, those numbers doubled, as he gave up a pair of bloops and a blast off of the base of the wall in right-center, with the final runner scoring off of Shaw in relief.
In total, Kluber lasted seven-plus innings, allowed six runs on eight hits, struck out six, and walked none.
“For seven, he gave up a two-run homer to Holaday on a fastball that came right back over the middle, then gave up a solo to Profar on a changeup, first pitch,” said Francona. “Other than that, they didn’t do much against a pretty good lineup. You send him back out in the eighth, we were going to have Shaw protect him just because Shaw hadn’t pitched for a couple of days and just wanted to protect him, but it happened fast. 0-2 bloop to left, then the ball in the gap and all of a sudden the game got spread out.”
LEWIS LIMITS TRIBE
Rangers starter Lewis (5-0, 3.09) held down the Indians all evening long, limiting them to just two hits and two walks over six scoreless innings. He struck out two and left just a pitch shy of the century mark.
“He reminds me, a little bit taller, but like Tomlin,” said Francona. “He really knows how to pitch. He keeps the ball in the big part of the ball park. Stays out of the middle. Just kinda takes the sting out of your bat. He adds and subtracts. I knew him when he was a young kid throwing about 95. Now he has some years under him but he really knows how to pitch.”
He is now 5-0 to start a season for the first time in his career.
TWO MORE DOUBLE PLAYS
After turning four double play balls on Monday night, the Rangers turned two more on Tuesday night, extending their MLB lead to 73 twin-killings on the season.
The St. Louis Cardinals entered Tuesday as the next closest team in double plays this season in MLB with 58.
BARNETTE’S SCORELESS STREAK ENDS
Reliever Barnette had not allowed an earned run since May 4, a span of eight straight appearances (nine and one-third innings).
REIGN OVER RANGERS ENDED
The Indians entered this week’s series with the Rangers with a 14-5 record over their 19 previous matchups. The Rangers have now won each of the first two games in the series.
BIG DAY FOR LONNIE IN LOSS
Chisenhall was the bulk of the Indians offense on Tuesday, going 3-for-4 with two singles, a homer, one run scored, and all three Cleveland runs batted in.
“I think he swung the bat very well tonight,” said Francona. “He has been starting to get his hits, but tonight, he had his legs under him and drove the ball which is really good to see. That will help us a ton.”
MERRITT OUT, ARMSTRONG IN
Less than 24 hours after making his Major League debut with four and one-third scoreless, one-hit innings, left-hander Ryan Merritt was optioned back to Columbus. He will return to the Clippers rotation while awaiting his next call.
Right-hander Armstrong, who appeared in eight games for the Indians last season and was 0-1 with a 2.50 ERA for the Clippers this season, replaced him on the roster, but may only last a few days, depending on the roster move made for the following story point.
Carlos Carrasco will rejoin the Indians rotation on Thursday when Cleveland hosts Kansas City. Mike Clevinger is the odd man out of the starting five and will be available from the bullpen on Wednesday.
While Francona implied on air with Tom Hamilton prior to the game that Clevinger could remain with the team on Thursday as a possible long-man to follow Carrasco’s start, there remains a chance that he could be the player optioned to make room for the Indians’ number two starter. Regardless, Francona indicated that Clevinger’s stay would be short as the club did not want to mess Clevinger up by using him frequently as a reliever now, only to possibly need him later in the remaining four months of the season as a starter.
Left-hander Cole Hamels (5-1, 3.34) will take the mound for Jeff Banister in the series finale, looking to complete the three-game road sweep and extend the Rangers’ winning streak to five straight. Trevor Bauer (3-2, 4.34) will be the Indians’ option on Wednesday night, looking to put to bed the Indians current three-game bender.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 PM ET, the final such start time this season.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images (pictured: Desmond’s two-run eighth inning double)