Corey Kluber cruised through seven innings for the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night, allowing one run while backed early and often by his offense in an 8-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
It was a taste of the old Kluber from Great American Ball Park, where he looked to defend a 3-0 career mark against the Reds in three career starts, but it was to be his first appearance against the cross-state club since 2015. Before he could step foot to the mound to throw his first pitch of the night, he stood at the plate with a bat in his hands as the Indians put up four first inning runs and sent nine men to the plate to put away the game mere minutes after it had started.
The Tribe took their second look at Reds right-hander Sal Romano, who had pitched well in his first start against Cleveland back in July. It would be a different story for the 24-year-old on Tuesday, as the Indians’ lineup found much success against him in the early innings to blow the game wide open.
Francisco Lindor started the game’s activity with a single to center and Michael Brantley saw four straight balls after a first-pitch strike to put a pair on. A rested Jose Ramirez got to work on a big night at the plate with a single to right, driving in Lindor from second to give the Indians the early 1-0 edge while both runners moved into scoring position on the throw to the plate. Yonder Alonso became the fourth straight to reach as he contributed with a two-run single to center to clear the runners on base, extending the lead to 3-0. Melky Cabrera made it four hits in the frame and three singles in a row with a base hit to left-center. Jason Kipnis grounded into a fielder’s choice force at second for the first out, but Yan Gomes made it a four-run advantage with an RBI-grounder to third. Greg Allen was intentionally walked to bring Kluber to the plate before he could throw his first pitch. He would strike out swinging, but the lead would prove to be plenty for the right-hander.
Kluber retired the side in order in the bottom of the first before the bats got back to work and knocked out the Reds’ starter in the second. Brantley singled to center with one out and moved to third on a hustle double by Ramirez. A sacrifice fly by Alonso made it 5-0 and Cabrera added his second straight single, scoring Ramirez to make it 6-0. Michael Lorenzen got the call from the Reds bullpen and he got Kipnis to line to right to end the inning.
Kluber eased his way through the second, striking out his second and third batters of the game. He gave up a single to start the third to Preston Tucker, who would be erased on a double play. Billy Hamilton walked, but was caught stealing after review. Kluber would retire the side in order again in the fourth, bringing the bats back out to work.
Lorenzen returned for a fourth inning of work in the top of the fifth, but pitched his way into trouble. Cabrera singled for the third straight at bat to start the inning and moved around the bases on back-to-back walks by Kipnis and Gomes. Allen grounded into a double play, but Cabrera scored to make it 7-0.
Kluber allowed two to reach in his toughest inning in the fifth, after a pair of groundouts to start the frame. Mason Williams singled to right and Tucker walked, but the pitcher Lorenzen lined to center to keep the shutout intact.
Ramirez tacked on another run in the sixth off of Lorenzen as he added to his impressive numbers against the Reds this season. With two down in the frame, he launched a solo shot deep to right, his 36th, to make it an 8-0 game.
Kluber gave up a leadoff single to Hamilton in the sixth, but he handled his business the rest of the frame by striking out the next three batters. In the seventh, he would lose his shutout as Tucker Barnhart tripled into the right field corner with one out and scored one out later on a single by Tucker.
Neil Ramirez and Tyler Olson each worked scoreless frames to close out the contest, with Ramirez striking out a pair.
The Indians (68-51) won their fourth straight game and guaranteed at least a season split with the Reds (52-68) after dropping two of three in their July series at Progressive Field. Cleveland has scored 37 runs in its last three games against Cincinnati.
Kluber worked seven quality innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. He pitched one-run baseball, allowing just five hits and a pair of walks, to keep the Indians in the win column. He threw 60 of 96 pitches for strikes and struck out seven Reds batters. He took over the team lead in victories with his 15th of the campaign.
“He didn’t have a 20-pitch inning. He had one seven-pitch inning and a nine-pitch,” shared manager Terry Francona post-game. “There was some early contact, but he stayed off the barrel like you’re supposed to.
“I think as he gets back to where he is, you’ll see the finish or the power to pitches, his breaking ball. I thought his cutter tonight was really good.”
Romano retired just five outs in his second start against the Indians this season. His first time out on July 10, he made a quality effort, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits with two walks and a strikeout in seven and one-third innings in a no-decision. This time around, he was tagged for six runs on seven hits with a pair of walks and a strikeout to drop to 7-10 on the season.
Ramirez was at the heart of the scoring for the Tribe on Tuesday as he went 3-for-5 on the night and fell a triple short of the cycle on the 15-year anniversary of Travis Hafner’s cycle in Minnesota back in 2003. Ramirez drove in a pair and crossed the plate safely himself three times. On the year, he is hitting .435 (10-for-23) against Cincinnati with five homers and eleven RBI.
Cabrera added three singles to boost his batting average to .266 on the season. Brantley reached safely twice with a single and a walk and scored twice.
Prior to the game, the Indians announced that All-Star Trevor Bauer had been placed on the disabled list, retroactive to August 12, with a small stress fracture in his right fibula just above the ankle. There is no time table for his return. The left-hander Olson was recalled from Triple-A Columbus to take Bauer’s spot on the 25-man roster and is expected to be optioned on Saturday when the club calls up Adam Plutko to assume his spot in the starting rotation.
The Indians will go for the sweep and a claim to the Ohio Cup on Wednesday night in a 7:10 PM ET start between a pair of young right-handers. Cincinnati will turn to 25-year-old righty Robert Stephenson (0-1, 6.75 ERA), who will make his second start of the season. The former 2011 first round pick allowed three runs on three hits with five walks and four strikeouts in a four-inning loss to the New York Mets on August 8. Shane Bieber (6-2, 4.24) will make his third interleague start of the year and his second on the road. His last time out, he worked six and two-thirds scoreless innings with three hits and two walks allowed while striking out eight in a win over the Chicago White Sox.
Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images