Corey Kluber threw six shutout innings and the Indians bats were alive and well again as Cleveland completed the sweep of Chicago with a 9-1 socking of the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon from Progressive Field.
The Indians finally appear to be locked in on all cylinders and have conquered the bullpen problem in recent days by simply scoring so many runs that nearly all leads handed over by the starting rotation have been safe. The Tribe would follow that design on Wednesday, jumping out to a big lead in the first few innings while allowing Kluber to cruise to his eighth win of the season with relative ease.
Kluber started strong, but only after a leadoff single from Yoan Moncada to start the afternoon. He struck out the next two batters, with the latter leading to an inning-ending double play as Yan Gomes gunned down Moncada trying to steal second.
The Indians’ offense got to work against young right-hander Reynaldo Lopez in the home half. With Francisco Lindor getting a well-deserved day off, Greg Allen hit in the leadoff spot and started the bottom of the inning with an infield single. He moved to second on a single by Michael Brantley, who extended his hitting streak to an MLB season-high 19 games, and Allen moved up on a fly out by Jose Ramirez. With Edwin Encarnacion at the plate, Lopez threw a wild pitch, scoring Allen and moving Brantley into scoring position. Encarnacion walked and Yonder Alonso loaded the bases with a single to center before Melky Cabrera lofted a sacrifice fly to center, deep enough to score Brantley to make it a 2-0 game.
Kluber allowed his second hit of the game in the second, but ended the inning with back-to-back punch outs. He opened and closed the third inning with swinging strikeouts, bringing the Indians back to the plate for a big inning.
Lopez had worked a 1-2-3 second, but needed 16 pitches to get through the inning after throwing 31 in the first. He would pitch himself right into trouble in the third, hitting Brantley to start the inning before giving up four straight hits. Ramirez singled to right, moving Brantley to third. Encarnacion drove in Brantley to make it 3-0. Alonso singled to load the bases for the second time in three innings. Cabrera followed with the big blow, doubling in a pair with a two-base hit to right to make it a 5-0 game. Jason Kipnis popped out for the first out, but a sacrifice fly by Gomes gave the Indians a six-run lead. Erik Gonzalez, starting for Lindor at short, picked up the slack with an RBI-single to right, clearing Cabrera to make it 7-0 while ending the short afternoon for Lopez. Chris Volstad would get out of the inning, getting Brantley to fly to left after a single by Allen.
Kluber built his K-count to eight with two more strikeouts to finish a perfect fourth inning before the Indians touched up the Sox bullpen. In back-to-back at bats, Ramirez and Encarnacion began the bottom of the fourth with solo blasts, giving the Tribe a 9-0 advantage. It was the 17th homer of the year for Ramirez and the 13th for Encarnacion.
Kluber gave up his third and final hit of the game in the fifth, as Tim Anderson doubled with one out. He would move to third, but Kluber struck out his ninth batter to end the inning. He came back for a final frame in the sixth, getting a groundout, a strikeout, and a fly out to end his day.
Newer bullpen additions Jeff Beliveau, Evan Marshall, and Ben Taylor worked the final three innings. Beliveau allowed a leadoff walk to Jose Abreu before escaping with a double play ball. Marshall gave up a second double to Anderson and later walked Trayce Thompson, but he struck out a pair in the scoreless inning. Taylor allowed a leadoff homer in the ninth to Sanchez, estimated at 449 feet, to end the shutout bid, but he retired the next three in order to end it.
The Indians (29-25) have now matched a season-high with their fifth straight win and have equaled their high-water mark for the year at four games above the .500 mark. With the rest of the division set to play later in the day, Cleveland held a five-game lead over both Detroit and Minnesota in the AL Central. The White Sox (16-37) continued their disappointing rebuilding season, dropping their fourth straight game.
KLUBER CONTINUES SHUTOUT STREAK
Kluber, coming off of an unfortunate loss on Friday against Houston after leaving the game with six and one-third scoreless innings worked, continued his incredible May on the mound with another scoreless gem. He worked six innings and left after 90 pitches due to the substantial lead, allowing three hits, issuing zero walks, and striking out ten for his fourth double-digit strikeout game of the season.
He improved to 8-2 on the year with the win, tying Washington’s Max Scherzer for the MLB lead in wins, and dropped his ERA to 2.02.
Kluber’s incredible month of May concluded with a 4-1 record in six starts with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. He allowed just eight earned runs in 39 1/3 innings with 41 strikeouts and just one walk in those outings.
LOPEZ LOSES FOURTH
Lopez, 24, had been pitching some of the best baseball of his young big league career coming into the start, allowing just two runs combined over a pair of quality starts in his last two trips to the mound. He would match that total before the first inning was done and would be shelled in one of his worst outings of the year, charged with seven runs on eight hits with a walk and two strikeouts in just two and two-thirds innings of work.
BIG EFFORTS BY THE BATS
It was another big day at the dish by the Tribe bats, who strung together 13 hits off of three of the seven Sox pitchers used on the day. The bulk of the damage was done early, as Lopez and Volstad combined to allow 12 hits in three-plus innings of work. Chicago’s bullpen afterwards limited the Cleveland lineup to just one hit and three walks over the final five innings.
For the second straight game, the Indians had contributions from all over. Four players had multi-hit games on Wednesday, led by Alonso’s 3-for-5 day with three singles. Allen, hitting in the top spot in the lineup, added two singles and scored a run. Ramirez scored twice, walked, and drove in a run during his 2-for-4 day, and Encarnacion went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, two runs driven in, and a walk before being lifted late for a pinch-hitter.
Even with nine runners scored in eight innings at the plate, the Indians missed out on a couple of scoring opportunities, leaving ten men on base. They were 5-for-12 hitting with runners in scoring position on the afternoon.
TO THE LAND OF 10,000 LAKES
The Indians will head out of town after their getaway day start time as they head to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Twins for the first time at Target Field this season. The two clubs previously met in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with the Twins serving as the home team (both teams claimed a victory in the two-game series). Cleveland will kick off its series on Thursday evening, with pitching prospect Shane Bieber scheduled to make his Major League debut on the mound against right-hander Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.34 ERA).
The Indians and White Sox will meet seven times in June.
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