On a second long road trip and over the course of a 162- game season, every team will have a bad day. Sunday was that day for the Cleveland Indians as they were leveled by the Toronto Blue Jays, 17-1, to wrap up their ten-game road trip.
Corey Kluber started for the Tribe, but was unable to make it through four innings as the Blue Jays jumped out to five early runs to chase the Cleveland starter. With the game in the hands of the heavily used bullpen during the four-game set with Toronto, things grew ugly quickly while the Indians had no answer for the Jays starter, J.A. Happ.
Kluber had Josh Donaldson standing on first base with two outs after a single before the inning got away from the Tribe starter. Michael Saunders doubled to left to move Donaldson to third before Russell Martin socked a 420-foot homer to center field to give the Jays a 3-0 lead. They would never look back.
Kluber worked out of a big jam in the second, keeping the game close for the time being. Junior Lake reached on an error by Jose Ramirez. Darwin Barney walked and Ezequiel Carrera sacrificed both runners over. An intentional walk to Donaldson loaded the bases before Kluber struck out Edwin Encarnacion and Saunders swinging on seven total pitches. He stranded two more in the third as he continued to pitch with traffic.
In the fourth, Toronto knocked out the Tribe righty. Carrera walked and Donaldson singled him to third with a shot to center. Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly made it 4-0. After a double from Saunders put two in scoring position, Joba Chamberlain entered the fray. An intentional walk to Martin loaded the bases before a second sacrifice fly in the frame, this one from Troy Tulowitzki, made it 5-0.
Happ had retired eleven straight after a one-out double in the first by Jason Kipnis. Carlos Santana ended that streak with a double to lead off the fifth, but was stranded at third.
To save some space, the sixth inning was unpleasant. Thirteen Toronto hitters came to the plate against two different relievers. Against Tom Gorzelanny, bobblehead boy Tulowitzki hit a three-run homer to left. Carrera drove in one with a single to right. Donaldson drove in another on an RBI-single. Tommy Hunter relieved and gave up an RBI-ground rule double to Encarnacion. Saunders singled in another and Martin plated the eighth run of the inning with the Jays’ fifth straight run-scoring hit. 13-0 Toronto.
The Indians spoiled the Happ shutout in his final inning in the seventh with a two-out score. Santana and Ramirez singled to put runners on the corners before Yan Gomes ripped a single past Donaldson at third to make it 13-1.
To emphasize the bad of the game, catcher Chris Gimenez took over on the mound in the seventh and returned for the eighth after a 1-2-3 inning. He allowed four runs, including back-to-back doubles from Donaldson and Encarnacion to start the inning. After an out, Martin singled in a run. With two outs, Justin Smoak slammed a two-run homer deep to right to give the Jays a 17-1 lead, a score that would stand the final half inning.
Cleveland (49-32) returns home after their second ten-game road trip in the last 26 games. At the halfway point of the season, the Indians remain in very good shape in the American League Central Division, holding a five and a half game lead over the second place Detroit Tigers, who will come to Progressive Field for a holiday game on Monday. The Indians concluded their road trip with an 8-2 record.
The Jays (45-39) won each of the final two games of the series to earn a series split.
HAPP PROVES HE IS WORTH THE BIG CONTRACT
Happ (11-3, 3.54 ERA) shut down the Indians offense until late. He allowed one run on five hits, struck out a season-high eleven, and issued no free passes. After retiring eleven in a row earlier in the game, he put down eight straight until two outs in the seventh, when the Indians scored their only run on three straight singles.
“It seems like he has another gear on that fastball,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “The ball has such good finish through the plate.”
The 33-year-old left-hander has now won five consecutive games for the Jays.
Kluber (8-8, 3.79) lasted just three and one-third innings in his second-shortest outing of the season. He allowed five runs on seven hits, walked four, and struck out four.
Control was a struggle as he frequently missed Gomes’ target on the afternoon. Several pitches up in the zone were relocated around the Rogers Centre.
“All day, it was just a fight for him,” said Francona.
GORZELANNY POURS ON THE GAS
Gorzelanny, tasked with keeping the five-run deficit close in the sixth inning, did nothing to help that cause.
In just one-third of an inning, he was charged with seven runs on four hits with three walks. He threw first pitch strikes to six of the eight batters he faced, but was able to retire just one. He threw 34 pitches, 17 for strikes, and saw his ERA for the season jump to 21.00.
Gorzelanny last allowed seven runs in an outing on August 21, 2013, while working as a starting pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
POSITION PLAYER PITCHING ALERT PART THREE
Gimenez made his second Major League relief appearance in the seventh and eighth innings for the Indians. He worked a quick and hitless seventh inning before the Jays plated a handful in the eighth.
“Unfortunately my career ERA of zero skyrocketed a little bit today,” shared Gimenez.
TULO’S TEAR CONTINUES
Tulowitzki has played much better since returning from a sore right quadriceps, one that landed him on the disabled list for 20 games. He is hitting .347 (17-for-49) with six homers and 12 RBI since being activated.
“I’m just trying to be myself. I think this is really who I am,” said Tulowitzki postgame. “I don’t think some Blue Jays fans have had a chance to see what I’m capable of doing.”
ALL THE DOUBLES
Toronto had five doubles on the day, matching the number of hits by their opponent on Sunday. Saunders (23) and Encarnacion (21) each had a pair, while Donaldson (19) had one.
THREE K DAY FOR LINDOR
Francisco Lindor got his first hat trick of the season and has now struck out seven times in his last four games (18 at bats).
Lindor has whiffed a total of 18 times in April, 12 times in May, and 13 in June.
Major League Baseball announced prior to the game that the Jays’ first baseman/DH was suspended one game for making contact with the home plate umpire in Friday’s game after being ejected from the contest for his display after a strikeout in the first inning. Manager John Gibbons and catcher Martin were later ejected in the game.
Encarnacion has appealed the suspension.
The Indians recalled Abraham Almonte from Triple-A Columbus as his 80-game banishment for performance enhancing drugs came to its end. Lefty Shawn Morimando was optioned out to make room on the 25-man roster for the returning outfielder.
In a corresponding roster move, the Indians transferred Michael Brantley to the 60-day disabled list.
TIME TO GO HOME
After another long road trip, the Indians return home to Cleveland to start a seven-game road trip to end the first half of the regular season. Danny Salazar (10-3, 2.22) will start for the Tribe in front of a sold out crowd at Progressive Field. Daniel Norris (1-0, 4.09) will oppose for the visiting Detroit Tigers, who will look to end their nine-game losing streak against the Indians this season.
Photo: Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP