Corey Kluber returned from his right quad injury and showed little, if any, signs of rust as he combined with two relievers on a three-hit shutout of the Boston Red Sox as the Cleveland Indians took a 2-0 lead in the ALDS behind a 6-0 victory.
Having last taken the mound on September 26 in Detroit on the night the Indians clinched the American League Central Division, Kluber did what he does best on the mound in winning a battle of former Cy Young winners as his offensive mates got to Boston’s big ticket and bigger dollar offseason acquisition, David Price.
The postseason struggles in a starting role for the left-handed Price were well known and the Indians added to those failures quickly in the second inning, achieving the magic number of runs of support for Kluber to come away victorious.
Mike Napoli grounded out to start the inning, but Carlos Santana singled to left and Jose Ramirez reached on a well-placed infield single. Price’s former teammate from their Tampa days, Brandon Guyer, dropped a pitch in on his hands into shallow center field to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. Lonnie Chisenhall, a lifetime .364 hitter against Price, lined a laser beam towards the right field corner. The ball glanced off of a plexiglass protector above the right field wall for a three-run homer, delivering what was ultimately the knockout blow with just one out in the second.
Kluber faced the minimum the first time through, allowing a single to Dustin Pedroia before erasing him on a double play ball. In the fourth, his control slipped a little as he walked Pedroia to lead off the inning and Mookie Betts one out later, but he got a big pop up to short from David Ortiz before striking out Hanley Ramirez to end the threat.
The Indians added to their tally in the fourth while sending Price to the showers. Guyer reached on an infield single off of the glove of Xander Bogaerts to start the inning and Roberto Perez walked one out later, bringing John Farrell out of the Red Sox dugout for reliever Matt Barnes. The right-hander got Rajai Davis to ground hard to third, where Brock Holt had a chance at a 5-3 double play, but dropped the ball and was only able to get the force at the bag. It kept the inning alive, allowing Jason Kipnis to single to left, scoring Perez to give Cleveland a 5-0 lead.
Bogaerts reached to start the fifth with a single, but was stranded at first. Betts got on board with one down in the sixth, but moved no further than first.
Guyer started the bottom half of the sixth with a single to right, his third hit of the night, doing so against Barnes. He left for Robbie Ross, who struck out Chisenhall before turning the game over to veteran sidewinder Brad Ziegler. He got the double play ball he needed, hit directly at Pedroia, but the second baseman pulled up too soon, allowing the ball to skip underneath him into the outfield. Now with runners on the corners, Davis was able to lift a fly to center deep enough to score Guyer on the sacrifice fly to give the Tribe its sixth run of the game.
Kluber left after facing two batters in the eighth after walking Sandy Leon and hitting Jackie Bradley Jr. on a two-strike offering. Dan Otero came on and prevented both inherited runners from scoring, striking out Pedroia before getting a fly out from Holt and a force out from Betts. Bryan Shaw worked the top of the ninth, sandwiching a pair of fly outs around a ground out to secure the big win.
The Indians (2-0) now hold a substantial advantage in the best-of-five series with the Red Sox (0-2). Cleveland needs just one win in the next three games, but they will have to work for it in the rowdy Fenway Park in the next two games, as necessary.
LITTLE RUST ON THE KLUBOT
It was a well rested, little rusted Kluber who took the game over from the jump. He pitched into the eighth inning in his first start since September 26. He threw seven shutout innings, allowing three hits while walking three batters and putting one on via hit by pitch. He struck out seven, firing 104 pitches, 60 of which were strikes. He stuck to his game plan, aggressively attacking the zone while throwing first pitch strikes to 17 of the 27 men he faced.
He limited the Sox lineup to just one hit each time through against him in the first postseason appearance of his MLB career.
PRICE EXITS IN FOURTH
Price took his eighth loss in a starting role in nine postseason opportunities. His playoff struggles were exploited quickly in the second inning when the Indians put up four of the five runs that they would score off of him. He allowed six hits in three and one-third innings, walking two and striking out three.
His early hook came just 65 pitches into the game. A total of 47 pitches crossed the plate for strikes.
Kluber and Price became just the third set of starters to face each other on Opening Day and later in the year during the postseason. They joined John Smoltz and Shane Reynolds (1997) and more recently, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander (2011).
*special thanks to Ryan Milowicki of the Indians Communications Department for research and to STATS LLC for verification.
CAVS SHOW SUPPORT
Many members of the Cleveland Cavaliers were seen throughout the ball park and in particular in a suite. LeBron James spoke to the fans in attendance in a mini pregame hype speech, reminding the Cleveland loyal in attendance that it is Cleveland against the world once again.
In the words of the NBA Finals MVP:
“Cleveland! Wow! You guys are unbelievable! Cleveland let me hear you! On behalf of myself and my teammates right here, we’re here for these guys over here [pointing to the Cleveland dugout]. Just like you guys were behind our back through our championship run, we all have to rally together for their championship run tonight for Game 2. Always believe something, Cleveland. It’s always us against the world. Always us against the world, Cleveland against the world. Let’s go!”
The two clubs will take a travel day off on Saturday as the series moves to New England, where Boston will host Cleveland in Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.
Right-hander Clay Buchholz (8-10, 4.78 ERA) will start for the Red Sox. He had to work through a trying season at times, even finding himself in the bullpen for an extended stretch of the season, but ended the year strong with a 3-0 mark in the month of September in five starts with a 3.14 ERA. The 32-year-old Texan will make his sixth career postseason appearance and start, with his last coming during the World Series in 2013.
Cleveland will counter with 31-year-old righty Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40). His well-documented issues during the second half appeared to end down the stretch. In the final month of the season in five games and four starts, he went 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 0.79 WHIP.
First pitch of the third and potentially deciding game of the ALDS is scheduled for 4:00 PM ET.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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