Cleveland’s Corey Kluber pitched solid, durable baseball into the eighth inning and the Indians offense provided three home runs in an 8-1 rout of the Detroit Tigers on Sunday afternoon to claim a series win.
It was a much needed performance from the Indians’ right-hander in the rubber match on Sunday as Kluber looked to bounce back from some rough outings while dealing with right knee issues. In his first start after the All-Star break, he allowed a season-high seven runs (just three of which were earned) in four innings, his second shortest effort of the year, while striking out just two in a contest for the second time this season. While the strikeouts were not a big part of his second outing of the second half on Sunday, he limited the foot traffic with just five hits allowed and one walk, exiting after 94 pitches well on the way to his 13th win of the year.
Both teams traded blows in the first inning before the Indians broke the game open. Against veteran right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Brantley split the gap with a triple to right-center and scored on a Jose Ramirez sacrifice fly. The Tigers manufactured a run in the bottom half off of Kluber, as Leonys Martin reached on a first pitch bunt single, moved to third on a double by Niko Goodrum to right-center, and scored on a grounder to short by Nick Castellanos to tie the game at one.
The Indians needed just two batters to reclaim the lead. After Yonder Alonso lined out to center, Melky Cabrera hit his first home run of the season over the wall in right to put Cleveland on top, 2-1. Back-to-back singles by Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes set the table for Rajai Davis, who struck out looking for the second out. With the inning on the line, Francisco Lindor singled to left-center to drive in Kipnis to give the Indians a 3-1 lead.
The Tribe tacked on two more in the top of the third. Ramirez drew a leadoff walk and stole second, but was stuck there on a groundout to third by Edwin Encarnacion. Alonso made up for it with a two-run home run to right, his 18th, to make it a 5-1 game.
Saturday’s scheduled starter, Francisco Liriano, came on for Zimmermann in the middle innings and worked around some trouble. He stranded Davis after a one-out triple in the fourth and worked around a one-out walk by Encarnacion in the fifth as the Tribe slugger was thrown out at home after a two-out single by Cabrera.
Kluber pitched with a comfortable advantage for much of the game, but worked out of the stretch a good deal of the day. He walked Castellanos to start the fourth, but got three straight outs on the ground. He allowed a double to Jose Iglesias with one out in the fifth, but stranded the shortstop at third. Iglesias would be the last runner to reach against Kluber until the final batter that he faced in the eighth, when Victor Reyes reached on a single with one out.
The Indians continued to add on to their advantage in the later innings. Daniel Stumpf struck out the first two batters of the seventh looking before Encarnacion found a fastball to his liking and deposited it over the left field wall to make it a 6-1 game. The Indians would load the bases on three straight singles to follow by Alonso, Cabrera, and Kipnis, but Gomes lined out to center. In the eighth against Buck Farmer, Davis notched his third extra base hit of the day with his second double to lead off the frame. After Farmer retired the next two, Ramirez walked and Encarnacion plated Davis from second with a single to left. Alonso doubled home Ramirez to make it an 8-1 Indians lead.
Brad Hand faced two batters in the eighth inning in relief of Kluber and Adam Plutko worked a perfect ninth to turn off the lights at Comerica Park for the Indians this season. The relief duo needed just 12 pitches to get five outs, throwing ten strikes in the process.
The Indians moved to 57-47 with the win and pulled within a game of even on the road this year. They are now 12-4 against the Tigers this season. Detroit fell to 45-62 with the loss and is now 27-27 at home this season.
Kluber did not appear to be at his best, but he was still dominant against the Tigers. He lasted seven and one-third innings, allowing a run on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He threw 70 of 94 pitches for strikes and threw first pitch strikes to 22 of the 27 batters that he faced. He kept the Tigers off balance with 17 swinging strikes on the afternoon.
Zimmermann got the hook after three innings and 80 pitches of work. He was charged with five runs on six hits with a walk and two strikeouts to drop to 4-3 on the season.
The middle of the Cleveland order did the heaviest lifting of the day, but eight of the nine spots in the lineup contributed at least one hit on the afternoon.
Alonso, Cabrera, and Davis each tallied three hits, with Alonso falling a triple short of the cycle while Davis had two doubles and a triple to his credit. Alonso drove in three while Encarnacion drove in a pair.
Ramirez’s “slump” at the plate continued as he went 0-for-2 on the day with a sacrifice fly to extend his hitless games’ streak to seven straight. However, in that span, he has drawn eleven walks, including two on Sunday, as he continues to make a difference with the bat, even when not able to use it most effectively.
Cleveland will get right back to action on Monday night but from a new location as the club begins a three-game series from Target Field in Minnesota. The Indians will send rookie right-hander Shane Bieber (5-2, 4.80 ERA) to the mound, while the Twins will call upon veteran righty Ervin Santana (0-0, 5.40) to make his second start of the season.
First pitch from the Twin Cities is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.
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