Six-Run Fifth Sends Tribe to Game One Victory Over Braves; Indians 8, Braves 4
Bob Toth | On 20, Apr 2019
A season-high six-run fifth inning for Cleveland broke a 2-2 tie and gave Corey Kluber the run support that he needed on Saturday afternoon as the Indians defeated the Atlanta Braves by an 8-4 final in game one of the day’s doubleheader.
It was a rare sight to see at Progressive Field, as the Braves made just their second regular season trip to Cleveland. The two clubs, who have met twice in the World Series (1948, 1995), last played in Atlanta in 2016 and have not played a series in Ohio since 2007.
Kluber faced off with Atlanta’s ace, Julio Teheran, in the series opener on Saturday after Friday’s contest was postponed by rain. A pair of late runs off of Kluber spoiled his quality start bid, while Teheran was knocked out before the close of the fifth inning when the Indians used a massive two-out rally to take the lead for good.
Both clubs traded off solo runs in the first inning. Kluber had a topsy-turvy inning, striking out Ozzie Albies and Josh Donaldson to start the game before walking Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. Nick Markakis delivered with a two-out RBI-single to center to score Freeman, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead before Kluber came back to strike out Dansby Swanson.
Jose Ramirez started the Indians rally with a one-out walk in the bottom of the first off of Teheran. Jason Kipnis pounced on the next pitch and singled to right and, two pitches later, Carlos Santana blooped a slider just out of the reach of a sliding Acuna in left, scoring Ramirez on the play to tie the game at one. Jake Bauers walked to load the bases, but Greg Allen and Tyler Naquin both struck out swinging to leave the bags full.
Both pitchers had easier second innings, with Teheran working around a one-out walk of Max Moroff. In the third, the Braves offense got back to work as the lineup turned over. Albies doubled to right-center and Donaldson reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners. Kluber struck out Freeman for the first out, but plunked Acuna Jr. with a sinker on the left elbow guard to load the bases. Markakis lofted a fly to left, deep enough to score Albies, to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead, but Swanson grounded back to Kluber to end the threat.
The Indians missed a chance to tie it in the bottom of the frame. Kipnis walked and Santana moved him to third with his second single of the game. Curiously, Bauers attempted to bunt towards first, but Kipnis was gunned down at the plate with ease before outs in the air by Allen and Naquin.
Kluber pitched a perfect fourth with another strikeout before the Indians tied the game in unexpected fashion. Number nine hitter Moroff got into a 2-2 pitch and yanked it just over the wall in right for a game-tying solo home run.
Everything unraveled for the Braves and Teheran in the fifth as seven straight Indians reached base. Kipnis started the inning with a strikeout before Santana singled for the third straight trip. Bauers struck out swinging for the second out, but Santana picked off second base and came in to score on a sharp double past first base by Allen to give Cleveland a 3-2 lead. Naquin jumped on the first pitch that he saw and singled to right, scoring the speedy Allen from second to make it a 4-2 game. Wes Parsons was summoned from manager Brian Snitker’s bullpen, but Naquin stole second before a walk by Kevin Plawecki. Moroff singled to score Naquin and Leonys Martin did the same with a single to center to score Plawecki. Ramirez walked to load the bases before a passed ball on Brian McCann with Kipnis at the plate made it 7-2. Kipnis became the seventh straight to reach as the tenth batter of the inning continued the scoring with an RBI-single to left. Jesse Biddle came on for Parsons and retired Santana on a liner to right to end the onslaught.
Kluber retired eleven in a row to get him through six, but he came back out for the seventh and ran into quick trouble. McCann and former Indians spring invitee Matt Joyce took Kluber deep back-to-back to open the inning before a pair of groundouts and a strikeout ended Kluber’s outing.
The Indians moved to 12-7 with the win and have now won four straight games. They are 6-1 at Progressive Field this season and were aided by a 6-for-17 effort with runners in scoring position on the afternoon. The loss dropped the Braves under even at 9-10. They are losers of four in a row.
RETURN OF KLUBER
Kluber looked much more himself on Saturday, as he lost the strike zone for just a moment in the first inning before eliminating any additional free passes the rest of his outing. He worked seven innings, giving up four runs on five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. He moved to 2-2 on the season with the win.
Teheran was able to minimize some trouble, but the fifth inning proved to be his undoing as he was tagged for the first three runs of the inning before Parson ate up the next three while not retiring a batter. Teheran worked four and two-thirds innings, giving up seven hits and walking four while striking out six on 106 pitches.
Both clubs looked to the bullpen to bolster their rosters with a 26th man for the doubleheader. Cleveland added right-hander Jon Edwards from Triple-A Columbus, while Atlanta called up righty Shane Carle from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Freeman extended his consecutive on-base streak to 19 games with his first inning walk. He went 0-for-3 at the plate with a run scored and a strikeout.
Acuna, who went 0-for-2 with two walks, saw his modest nine-game hitting streak come to a close.
Josh Tomlin, who was the longest tenured member of the Indians organization until becoming a free agent after the 2018 season, made his return to the Cleveland mound for Atlanta in the bottom of the eighth inning. He worked a perfect inning while striking out one, getting Kipnis to fly to right, Santana to ground to first, and Bauers to strike out swinging.
Donaldson went 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in his first game at Progressive Field since the ALDS last October. He signed a one-year, $23 million deal with the Braves this past offseason.
Bauer pitched well his last time out against Seattle on Monday, allowing a run on five hits with three walks and eight strikeouts in six and two-thirds innings for his second win of the campaign. Toussaint has made one appearance, working six innings in relief against the New York Mets while earning a win, allowing one unearned run on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images