Jackson Homer Late Sends Tribe to Third Straight; Indians 4, Rays 3

Austin Jackson’s leadoff homer in the eighth inning rallied the Cleveland Indians and Corey Kluber over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon, 4-3.

It was not Kluber’s best start of the season, but he did what an ace was supposed to do, keeping his club in the game long enough to find a way to win.

The Rays ended a 20-inning scoreless drought and held an early lead against the Indians’ All-Star right-hander with a clutch two-out hit in the third. With one out, Jesus Sucre and Corey Dickerson each singled. Kluber came back to retire Lucas Duda swinging, but Evan Longoria sent the next pitch into left field to drive home Sucre with a single to give Tampa a 1-0 lead.

Bruce - Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Bruce – Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Cleveland responded in the fourth to make Tampa’s lead a short one. Jackson singled to right to start the fourth before rookie right-hander Austin Pruitt retired the next two to put the inning on the verge of ending. Jay Bruce, however, delivered a deep drive off of the wall in right-center for a game-tying RBI-double. Carlos Santana followed with a double of his own to give the Indians a 2-1 lead.

The Tribe tacked on another in the sixth to pad their lead. With two down, Edwin Encarnacion hit a no-doubt homer to left to make it a 3-1 game.

Kluber retired eight straight after the Rays got on the board in the third, but got into trouble in the sixth with a one-out walk of Longoria. He bounced back to strike out Logan Morrison for the second out, but after loading the count against Steven Souza Jr., the righty-mashing slugger sent a two-run shot to center to tie the game at three.

The Indians nearly reclaimed the lead in the seventh against the Rays bullpen. Santana singled to center to start the inning against Steve Cishek and moved to second on a grounder by Yan Gomes. A walk by Bradley Zimmer brought Tommy Hunter on from the bullpen. He retired pinch-hitter Jason Kipnis on a pop up to second, but Francisco Lindor followed with a single to right. Souza, fresh off of his game-tying hit, kept the game tied by throwing a strike to the plate to gun down Santana, keeping it a 3-3 game.

Jackson would play the hero in the eighth. With Hunter still on the mound, Jackson worked a lengthy at bat before drilling an inside heater over the wall in left for the go-ahead shot. Bryan Shaw would work a nine-pitch eighth and Cody Allen stranded the tying run on second after a one-out Souza walk to earn his 21st save of the season.

The Indians (63-52) started their road trip on the right foot, winning each of the final three games of their series in Tampa to improve to 32-25 away from home this season. Their lead in the AL Central remained at four and a half games as the Minnesota Twins got back into the win column against the Detroit Tigers.

Kluber - Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Kluber – Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The Rays (59-60) concluded their homestand with a 2-7 record. They were shut out in five of those contests and managed just eleven runs, with three coming Sunday. The free-swinging, homer-happy club struck out 100 times during that stretch.

Kluber (11-3, 2.71 ERA) won for the third straight start and fourth consecutive decision. In seven innings of work in a quality start, Kluber tallied nine strikeouts, giving him 14 outings in a row with eight Ks or more. He allowed just four hits and two walks, including Souza’s costly two-run shot, had it not been for the response shot from Jackson.

Since returning from the disabled list, Kluber is 8-1 with a 1.85 ERA.

Pruitt took a no-decision in his third straight start against an AL All-Star starting pitcher. He lasted six innings in a quality outing, giving up three runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts. Hunter, the former Indians reliever, took his third loss of the year after allowing the Jackson homer and gave up three hits in total over an inning of work.

The Indians will continue their four-game, eleven-game homestand with a one-day layover in Boston to make up a previous rainout with the Red Sox on Monday night. The Rays will take their show on the road, heading north of the border to Toronto to take on the division rival Blue Jays.

Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images

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