Quality Work Again from Kluber as Tribe Wins Road Finale; Indians 4, Mariners 2

Corey Kluber was on the mound for Cleveland on Sunday. That should answer any questions about whether the Tribe won its series from the Seattle Mariners or not in the club’s final road game of the regular season.

The Tribe right-hander strengthened his already strong Cy Young case with a quality start and his 18th win of the year. His offense stepped up after two fifth-inning Mariners runs briefly tied the game, helping to overcome the error that made the unearned runs possible.

Kluber - Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Kluber – Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Indians took their first lead of the game in the fourth. After Cleveland stranded two-out singles in each of the previous two innings, Jose Ramirez led off the inning against Seattle starter Mike Leake with a single to center and later stole second. Edwin Encarnacion engaged Leake in a lengthy battle, one that would be won by the Tribe slugger as he sent the eighth pitch of his at bat into left field for an RBI-double, putting Cleveland on top, 1-0. After a strikeout by Jay Bruce for the first out, Jason Kipnis jumped a curveball and drove it to right to score Encarnacion on his double, making it a 2-0 score.

Kluber, making his first start in a week, worked around some early traffic. Mitch Haniger singled in the first with one out, but Robinson Cano flied out and Nelson Cruz struck out swinging. Kluber cleared the second easily, striking out the side. He gave up his second hit of the afternoon in the third when Taylor Motter singled to right with one out, but a pair of outs in the air ended any scoring chance for the Mariners.

Pitching with his first lead in the home half of the fourth, Kluber was aided by a big defensive play behind him. After striking out Cano to start the inning, Cruz doubled to deep right-center. A walk to Kyle Seager put two on with one out. Yonder Alonso sent a high drive to deep left that Austin Jackson was able to track down, stop, and fire to his cutoff man. The relay throw to first nabbed Seager returning to first for the inning ending 7-6-3 double play.

The Indians went down in order in the fifth, but the Mariners would not. Mike Zunino reached safely on a rare error at third base by Giovanny Urshela. Zunino would be forced out at second base on a fielder’s choice off of the bat of Guillermo Heredia for the first out. Motter was cut down swinging for the second out, but Ben Gamel knotted the game at two with a two-run homer to center. After a single to center by Haniger, Cano struck out again, but the game was tied 2-2.

As has been the case multiple times throughout the Indians’ long winning stretch on the field, that tie did not last long. Ramirez led off the sixth and immediately responded to the Mariners score, working the count full before driving the ball up and over the wall in center for a tie-breaking solo home run, his 29th of the season.

Given his second lead of the day, Kluber returned to the mound and faced the heart of the Mariners offense. Cruz lined to center and Seager struck out before Alonso singled to right. Zunino struck out swinging to leave the score 3-2.

The Indians would spring Leake from the contest in the seventh with a chance to break the game open, but were unable to do so. With one out, Abraham Almonte singled and, one out later, Francisco Lindor was hit by a pitch on his left knee. Shae Simmons came on in relief and fired a wild pitch to put both runners into scoring position, but he would come back to get Jackson to ground to second.

Kluber worked a final frame in the seventh, giving up a two-out walk to Gamel, but otherwise keeping the Mariners off of the scoreboard. The Indians then rewarded their top starter with another run of support in the eighth as Encarnacion doubled off of Simmons with one out, moved to third on Bruce’s single to right off of reliever James Pazos, and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Kipnis.

Bryan Shaw handled the eighth, avoiding harm after Lindor had a Cano grounder jump up on him for an error to start the inning. Shaw responded by striking out Cruz and Seager before getting Alonso to ground into a force at second. Cody Allen took over in the ninth, striking out Zunino, getting Heredia to ground to second, and striking out pinch-hitter Dan Vogelbach to earn his 29th save of the season.

The Indians (98-58) hit a mark rarely seen in franchise history as the club is now 40 games over the .500 mark for the first time since 1995. The win in their final road game of the season gave the club 53 wins away from Progressive Field this year, a new franchise record in a season full of records for the Tribe. It also increased their dominant stretch on the field to 29-2 over their last 31 games. They have won nine consecutive series.

The Mariners (75-81) were eliminated from the postseason with the loss, their final home game of the season.

Ramirez - Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Ramirez – Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Kluber (18-4, 2.27 ERA) maintained his league leading ERA spot after both runs allowed were unearned in his seven innings of work. His win, number 18 on the year, moved him into a tie for the most wins in all of baseball with Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw and broke a five-way tie atop the American League, where he was joined by teammates Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco. Kluber allowed six hits and walked a pair on the afternoon, but he struck out ten batters and was aided by a big double play.

Leake (10-13, 3.92 ERA combined between St. Louis and Seattle) took his first loss since joining the Mariners in an August trade. He worked six and two-thirds innings, allowing three runs on seven hits in a quality start. He struck out five and did not walk any of the 28 batters that he faced while throwing 106 pitches.

Ramirez, Encarnacion, and Kipnis drove the Tribe offense in the ball game. All three had two hits. Ramirez and Encarnacion both scored twice and Kipnis drove in a pair of runs. Ramirez is now hitting .317 on the season and has scored 101 runs, making him the first Indians player to score 100 in a season since 2008. Encarnacion’s RBI gave him 99 on the year.

The Indians will return home to close out the remainder of the regular season. The team will take a day off on Monday, the last one on the schedule, before hosting the Minnesota Twins for three straight during the week. The Twins will be looking to lock up the second American League Wild Card spot during their visit.

Photo: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

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