On the eve of the biggest party and celebration the city of Cleveland has seen in its sports history, Indians ace Corey Kluber gave fans a little something more to be excited about as he threw a complete game three-hit shutout over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night, 6-0.
After allowing a second inning single to Corey Dickerson, Kluber shut down any semblance of an offense for the Rays. He was supplied with a few runs by the midway mark of the game before his teammates doubled their production with an explosive eighth inning full of fireworks.
The Tribe jumped out to a two-run lead in the bottom of the third after Yan Gomes led off the inning with a single. He advanced to second on a sacrifice from Tyler Naquin before Carlos Santana grounded back to Rays starter Blake Snell. With the inning hanging in the balance, Jason Kipnis sent a shot into center that took a strange high hop over the head of the center fielder Desmond Jennings and rolled all the way to the wall. Kipnis flew around the bases with a little league style home run, but it was ruled an RBI-single with a three-base error.
In the fourth, the Indians nearly gave Kluber a three-run advantage. Mike Napoli led off the frame with a single to center before he stole second base on a dropped ball from Hank Conger. After a strikeout by Jose Ramirez and a groundout by Juan Uribe, Lonnie Chisenhall singled to left. The throw in from Taylor Motter was close and initially Napoli was ruled safe on the field. After a challenge by Rays manager Kevin Cash, the close call was overturned.
The Indians left Gomes on third base in the fifth after his leadoff ground-rule double to right and Kluber followed up the missed opportunity by extending his streak to eleven consecutive batters retired. The Tribe rewarded his efforts in the bottom of the sixth with an extra insurance run. With one out, Ramirez singled to right, moved to second when Uribe reached safely on an error by shortstop Brad Miller, and scored on a sharp single to center by Chisenhall to make it a 3-0 game.
Kluber allowed just his fourth base runner of the night in the top of the seventh, when Jennings walked with two outs to end his streak of 13 batters retired in a row. His counterpart Snell allowed a runner to get to third in the seventh before exiting with two outs, but reliever Enny Romero retired Francisco Lindor with a fly out to right.
Steve Geltz took over for the Rays in the eighth and the Indians pounced to double their advantage for their often under-supported starter Kluber. Napoli singled on his first pitch to right. Ramirez, after starting 3-0, drove a 3-2 pitch to right to make it 5-0. Uribe followed suit with a blast deep to the Home Run Porch in left to give the Tribe a three-spot and a six-run lead.
Kluber returned for the ninth, giving up back-to-back one-out singles to Miller and Evan Longoria before retiring the final two batters of the game to close out his three-hit shutout.
With the win, the Tribe (40-30) extended their home winning streak to ten straight games, the longest of the season in Major League Baseball, while pushing their record at Progressive Field to 22-12. They have also ripped off five straight wins on the heels of their sweep in Kansas City to end their ten-game road trip. At ten games above the .500 mark, the Indians has extended their lead in the American League Central Division to two full games, as the second place Royals lost on Tuesday night.
The Rays (31-38) have lost six straight games, including four straight to the Indians.
KLUBER WITH ANOTHER COMPLETE GAME GEM
It was an incredible bounce back start for Kluber (7-7, 3.59 ERA), who was tagged for eight runs in his last outing to close out the previous road trip. He now has a pair of complete game bookending one of the worst starts of his career.
“When that one’s over, you flush it and move on to the next one,” Kluber shared after his big win.
Kluber allowed three hits and two walks while striking out nine batters on the evening. He took a one-hitter into the ninth inning before giving up a pair of singles. It was the second shutout of the season for the Indians’ 30-year-old right-hander and his third complete game.
“Until Tito tells me I’m done, I try to keep the mindset that I’m going to keep going back out there,” said Kluber. “I don’t know what my pitch count was but I wasn’t really concerned with it.”
SNELL STRONG IN DEFEAT
Snell, the Rays rookie left-hander and number one prospect, looked strong in a quality outing. In just his third MLB start, he allowed three runs on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts over six and two-thirds innings.
The homer from Ramirez in the eighth extended the Indians’ streak of games with a home run to nine straight.
ONE MORE FOR JUAN
Uribe is on a tear at the plate since his return from injury. His homer to follow Ramirez’s shot in the eighth gave him a fourth straight game with a long ball, the first time in his career he has homered that often in consecutive games. His previous career high was two.
It marked the first time this season that Cleveland has hit back-to-back home runs.
GOMES GETTING GOING
Gomes had a total of four multi-hit games this season coming into the series with the Rays this week. He put together his first consecutive multi-hit games of the year with two hits Monday and two more Tuesday, including doubles in each game. He has now hit safely in four straight games to boost his batting average from .167 to .184 on the year.
GELTZ HAS A HOMER PROBLEM
Rays reliever Geltz, who was victimized by both homers from the Tribe on Tuesday night, has given up 17 hits on the season. Nine of them have left the yard.
BRANTLEY’S BULKY BICEP
The Indians announced prior to Tuesday night’s game that injured outfielder Michael Brantley had undergone another MRI after a minor setback in his return from his ailing right shoulder. He received a cortisone shot and was given a clean bill of health, from a structural standpoint. The current injury has been described as right bicep tendinitis, a relief for those concerned that there were additional or ongoing issues with his shoulder.
With the series already won, the Indians will go for the homestand sweep on Wednesday night in front of what is expected to be a large and jubilant crowd from Progressive Field.
Right-hander Trevor Bauer (4-2, 3.46) will take the mound first for Terry Francona’s Indians, while former Indians pitching prospect Chris Archer (4-9, 4.60) will counter for the Rays. He has had no luck against his former club, posting a 0-4 record with a 4.91 ERA.
First pitch from Cleveland is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET start.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak