Corey Kluber exited the game between the Cleveland Indians and Miami Marlins on Wednesday night after being struck in the right forearm on a line drive off of the bat of Brian Anderson in the fifth inning. Initially diagnosed a contusion, x-rays revealed a non-displaced fracture of the right ulna.
Down 3-1 at the time, the Tribe would fall in a 4-2 final from Marlins Park to split the two-game set with Miami.
It is another devastating blow to an Indians roster built around its strong starting pitching. Already without number four starter Mike Clevinger for several months with a sprained back, the team will now have to look for answers after losing its ace to yet another fluke line drive off of a starting pitcher. Carlos Carrasco has been a magnet for baseballs over the last several seasons, and last year, Trevor Bauer’s season was interrupted after he was struck by a line drive in Chicago against the White Sox’s Jose Abreu.
The Indians fell behind early with Kluber on the mound. Normally solid in interleague efforts, the first three Marlins reached against the 33-year-old right-hander. Curtis Granderson reached on a bunt single. Miguel Rojas singled to right and moved up to second as Granderson was thrown out trying to advance to third against the arm of right fielder Jordan Luplow. Rojas scooted to third on a wild pitch and came in to score on a single to center by Anderson to give the Fish an early lead.
Luplow drew a two-out walk in the second against Marlins starter Caleb Smith to give the Indians their first base runner, but he was thrown out trying to steal second to end the inning. In the third, Cleveland skipped run manufacturing as Roberto Perez blasted a 1-0 fastball over the wall in left-center to tie the game at one.
Kluber struck out a batter in the third and worked around a two-out single by Rojas, but he ran into trouble with a two-out Miami rally in the bottom of the fourth. Jorge Alfaro and Jon Berti each singled before Rosell Herrera doubled off of the Fox Sports Go sign in the right field corner, plating the pair to give the Marlins a 3-1 edge. The pitcher Smith grounded to short to leave a man in scoring position.
Kluber’s season changed in the fifth. After hitting Granderson to start the inning, he got a big double play as Rojas struck out and Granderson was gunned down again as he tried to swipe second. Nearly out of the frame, Kluber’s first pitch to Anderson was lined back to the mound. In self-defense, Kluber turned, but his right forearm was struck near the elbow. The ball dropped nearly to his side and rather than to pick up the ball and attempt to throw it, Kluber made a fairly athletic flip of the ball with his glove on one hop to first baseman Carlos Santana. Anderson beat the effort, but all attention was on the usually stoic Kluber, whose on-field grimace indicated quickly that he was not going to remain in the game.
The Marlins added another run in the sixth against reliever Tyler Clippard, the third Cleveland pitcher of the game. Alfaro was hit by a pitch with one man down and was joined on the bases after a walk by Berti. Herrera delivered his third run batted in of the night with a single to right, driving in Alfaro. A sacrifice by the pitcher moved both runners up, but Granderson was cut down swinging to strand a pair.
Smith kept the Indians at bay throughout his outing. No more than two reached base against him in any one inning, as he escaped that jam in the fourth by getting Carlos Gonzalez to ground into a double play. He retired the side in order in the fifth, walked Francisco Lindor in the sixth before stranding him, and left Luplow on second base in the seventh after his two-out double.
Drew Steckenrider took over for Don Mattingly in the eighth, striking out a pair while wasting a two-out walk by Lindor. In the ninth, closer Sergio Romo came on for his second save attempt against Cleveland this season, but he had to work for it against the middle of the Tribe lineup. After getting Jose Ramirez to fly to center, Santana homered for the third straight game. His fourth of the year, clearing the wall in right, made it a 4-2 game. Romo struck out Gonzalez for the second out before pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin singled, but as the tying run at the plate, Jason Kipnis lined the second pitch of his at bat to right to end the ball game.
The Indians ended their road trip with a 3-3 mark in Houston and Miami, splitting both series and each of their last three overall. The team is now 16-13 on the year and 9-9 on the road. The Marlins moved to 9-21 with their sixth home win in 18 attempts this season while ending their four-game losing streak.
Kluber left the clubhouse in a cast. In what will be his final start for some time, he allowed three runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts in four and two-thirds innings. He had made 57 pitches on the night, with 43 crossing for strikes. The bullpen allowed a run on two hits with a walk and two strikeouts over the final three and one-third innings.
The left-hander Smith pitched a gem for the Marlins in winning his third game of the season. He worked seven innings, allowing a run on four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. He worked from in front of all but six batters on the night and had the Indians lineup swinging and missing frequently at his offspeed stuff. The relief corps behind him handled things the rest of the way, with Steckenrider earning his third hold of the year and Romo locking down his fifth save despite the homer and single in the ninth.
Santana was the offensive star for the Indians, making up for an 0-for-8 against the Marlins last week with a 5-for-9 line in two games this week. He had two hits on Wednesday, including his home run, and the solid stay in Florida boosted his batting average 23 points.
Herrera was 2-for-4 with a pair of run-scoring hits on the night. He also robbed Gonzalez of a hit defensively. He drove in three of Miami’s four runs. Three other players had multi-hit games for the Marlins, including Rojas, Anderson, and the former Tribe farmhand Berti.
Both clubs will be off on Thursday for travel. The Indians will return home to start a seven-game homestand against the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago White Sox. The Marlins will stay home to host the rival Atlanta Braves for three games beginning Friday night.
Photo: Mark Brown/Getty Images