Pirates Pummel Kluber and Tribe Defense; Pirates 7, Indians 0 (6)

Corey Kluber’s first start after an injection in his right knee did not go as planned as the Pittsburgh Pirates took advantage of several extra outs in the second inning to run up a big early lead and the third of three rain delays took care of the rest as the Cleveland Indians were blanked for the second straight day, 7-0, in six innings.

The Pirates rolled into Progressive Field on a nine-game winning streak and easily pushed it to a season-high ten straight as they took advantage of mechanical issues from Kluber and several defensive miscues that immediately led to runs in the second inning against the Tribe’s ace.

Rains – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Kluber received the aid of his defense in the first when a double play grounder ended the inning, but the defense faltered one inning later. With one out in the second, Colin Moran singled in front of Melky Cabrera on a ball that other right fielders might have been able to make a play on. Moran would be erased on a fielder’s choice off of the bat of big bodied Josh Bell, but the grounder could have been a double play if not initially booted by second baseman Jason Kipnis. Instead of an inning-ending twin killer, Kipnis was able to recover the bobble and made the glove flip to shortstop Francisco Lindor for the force. David Freese popped up a 2-0 pitch in front of the mound, with both corner infielders converging in the center of the diamond for what should have been a second easy attempt at a third out. Jose Ramirez called for the ball but collided with Yonder Alonso, with the ball landing on the turf below unsecured by Alonso to put runners on the corners. Josh Harrison then took advantage of the error, blasting an 0-2 pitch deep to the bleachers in left to put Pittsburgh up, 3-0. The inning continued as Jordy Mercer doubled to left and Corey Dickerson walked. Starling Marte singled to right and Mercer beat the throw to the plate to extend the lead to 4-0. Gregory Polanco flied to right to end the inning.

Pirates starter Trevor Williams did not need much help from his offense, but the four runs gave him plenty of room to wiggle. He worked a perfect first with three fly ball outs. Cabrera singled with two outs in the second, but he moved no further. Williams retired the side in order for the second time in the third.

The Pirates tacked on in the fourth. Harrison and Mercer each singled with one down. Dickerson grounded into a force at second to leave runners on the corners with two outs. Marte plated one run with a single to center and Polanco cleared two more with a blast high off of the wall in left-center that ricocheted past center fielder Tyler Naquin for a triple. Elias Diaz struck out looking to leave a runner on third, but that would be more than enough for the Pirates, which had a commanding 7-0 lead.

Williams retired the side in order again in the fourth to make it seven straight set down before Indians manager Terry Francona went to reliever Zach McAllister, who gave up a fifth inning single to Bell up the middle before getting a double play grounder. He would worked a perfect sixth.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Indians had a chance to touch up the scoreboard. Alonso walked to lead off the inning against Williams and, after a fly out by Cabrera, moved to second on an infield single down the first base line by Kipnis. With two on and one out, the Cleveland bats could not deliver as Yan Gomes popped up the next pitch before Naquin grounded into a force at second.

The Tribe threatened again against Williams in the sixth, but to no avail. Michael Brantley reached on a one-out single to right and moved to second on a wild pitch. Ramirez walked and Yandy Diaz singled to left to load the bases, but Alonso chased a 1-2 pitch out of the zone for Williams’ only strikeout of the night and Cabrera grounded out to second to end the inning and, unexpectedly, the game.

Rains hit for the third delay of the day after the inning and would lead to the postponement of the final three innings, giving the Pirates (52-49) a six-inning four-hit shutout of the Tribe. They have now won ten straight games to pull within seven of the front-running Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. The loss dropped the Indians’ (54-45) lead in the AL Central to eight and a half games.

Williams worked six shutout innings, surviving the short rain delay in the middle innings. He allowed just the four hits, walked two, and struck out one to improve to 8-7 on the season.

Kluber – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Kluber lasted four innings as he struggled to find the strike zone early in the night. The big second inning would not be charged to him, as he allowed seven runs in the game, but just three of those were earned. He struck out two batters and walked one.

“His fastball command was not where it usually is,” shared Francona. “That was probably a worry going in. He’s such a creature of habit and his routine was different this time.”

“I feel fine physically,” said Kluber. “I feel like I can figure out the other things.

“Those two plays had nothing to do with me hanging an 0-2 breaking ball that cost us three runs.”

Harrison’s big blow in the second proved to be the undoing for the Tribe. He went 2-for-3 out of the eight-hole in the Pittsburgh lineup, recording a single and a homer, scoring two runs, and knocking in three. Mercer and Marte also had two hits, and Marte and Polanco each drove in a pair.

Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET start on Tuesday night. Right-hander Shane Bieber (5-1, 3.53 ERA) will return to the Indians’ 25-man roster when a corresponding roster move is made to call him up from Triple-A Columbus. Pittsburgh will call on right-hander Joe Musgrove (3-4, 4.08) to make his third start since returning from his second stint on the disabled list this season. He allowed five runs in a season-high seven and two-thirds innings in a no-decision against Milwaukee.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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