Cards Rock Kluber in Shortest Career Start; Cardinals 11, Indians 2
Bob Toth | On 26, Jun 2018
It was an unusual night again for Corey Kluber, as the right-hander was unable to make it through two innings in the shortest start of his Major League career on Tuesday night, giving up the first six runs in an 11-2 loss by the Cleveland Indians to the St. Louis Cardinals from Busch Stadium.
From the jump, something appeared to be off with Kluber as he struggled with early command, missing spots and landing in the middle of the zone and higher. He could not protect an early two-run lead put up by his offense in the first inning, giving up two home runs and six runs in total while getting the hook after just an inning and two-thirds of work.
It marked a disappointing end result for Cleveland, which dropped to 43-35 on the year as the road woes continued for the Tribe. They are just 16-22 away from Progressive Field this season.
Things started promising for the Indians, who jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against two-time All-Star right-hander Carlos Martinez. The 26-year-old hurler, who has battled some command issues all season long, needed 31 pitches to get through the frame. Francisco Lindor won a six-pitch battle to lead off the game, driving a 3-2 single to center. Michael Brantley walked on six pitches and Jose Ramirez worked the third straight full count to open the game, but flied to center as Lindor moved to third. Yonder Alonso fouled off five pitches, with the latter being retrieved behind the plate by catcher Yadier Molina for the second out. With the inning hanging in the balance, Lonnie Chisenhall jumped on the first pitch and singled to center, scoring Lindor with the game’s first run. Two pitches later, Jason Kipnis singled through the shift to right, bringing home Brantley from second to make it 2-0 before Yan Gomes struck out swinging.
Kluber saw that lead shrink on the first batter of the home half. Matt Carpenter, hot off of a three-hit game on Monday night, caught a curveball and drove it over the wall in right. Kluber would strike out a pair and work around a one-out single by Jose Martinez, but minimized the damage in a long first.
The Cardinals starter settled down in the second, striking out the first two batters, but the same would not be said for Kluber, who continued to live up in the zone. The first three Cardinals batters reached on a single, a walk, and a second single to load the bases for the first time against Kluber this season. Kluber’s counterpart of all people tied the game at two with a sacrifice fly to center and Carpenter gave them a lead with an RBI-single to right. Tommy Pham flied to center for the second out, but with runners on the corners, J. Martinez blasted the game-breaking three-run homer to left-center while knocking Kluber out of the 6-2 game.
With a big lead, Martinez walked a tight rope in the third. Brantley singled to start the inning and after a fly out by Ramirez, Alonso singled to right. But with a prime scoring opportunity at hand, Chisenhall struck out and Kipnis flied out to strand a pair.
Dan Otero allowed two more Cardinals runs in the third in his second inning of work. After getting the first two outs on grounders to short, Harrison Bader legged out an infield single and Kolten Wong made it an 8-2 contest with a two-run shot to right.
Molina added a run in the fourth against Josh Tomlin with a bases loaded sacrifice fly. Marcell Ozuna made it 10-2 in the sixth against Tomlin with a single as Carpenter scored on an error by Brantley. Carpenter factored in the final run as well, hitting his second homer of the game off of George Kontos in the bottom of the eighth.
After the Tribe’s brief scoring threat in the third, they would be kept off of the bases. Martinez retired the side in the fourth and fifth before a one-out single by Chisenhall in the sixth. He responded to the base runner with back-to-back strikeouts. Brett Cecil worked a quick seventh in relief, Greg Holland handled the eighth, and Mike Mayers pitched a perfect ninth as the Cardinals retired the final eleven Indians hitters in order and 20 of 21.
The Cardinals moved to 42-36 on the year and remain four games behind Milwaukee and a game and a half in back of Chicago in the NL Central, as all three teams were victorious on Tuesday.
Kluber’s start was his shortest since May 31, 2013, when he left his start against the Tampa Bay Rays after a rain delay. He was dealt his fourth loss of the year, charged with six runs on six hits with a walk and two strikeouts in an inning and two-thirds.
Martinez was able to survive the early damage and heavy pitch count to last six innings in a quality start. He was charged with two runs on six hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. The bullpen fired three perfect innings behind him, striking out one.
Carpenter was at the heart of the attack for the Cardinals, as he went a perfect 5-for-5 at the plate to improve to 8-for-9 in the series. He fell just a triple short of the cycle in a big day, hitting his 14th and 15th homers, driving in three, and scoring five times, nearly singlehandedly outperforming the entire Tribe lineup.
For the second straight night, the game was held up at the outset by a significant rain delay.
The Indians will try to avoid the sweep on Wednesday night in the series finale with the Cardinals. Rookie Shane Bieber (2-0, 2.45 ERA) will take on right-hander Jack Flaherty (3-2, 2.50). Bieber is coming off of a career-best performance, allowing just four hits over seven scoreless innings in his second win of the year. The 22-year-old Flaherty, who has been tough to hit all season long, is coming off of an unfortunate no-decision against Milwaukee his last time out, giving up just one seventh inning homer while striking out a career-best tying 13 batters.
First pitch is scheduled for 8:15 PM ET.
Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images