Indians defeat Reds in first game of Battle of Ohio, 7-1
Tribe wins fourth straight behind Kluber; homers by Chisenhall and Gomes
CLEVELAND—Corey Kluber wasn’t an All-Star, but he sure continues to pitch like one.
Backed behind the arm of their ace, the Indians took down in-state rival Cincinnati, 7-1 Monday night to win the first game in the Battle of Ohio.
“He's a really good pitcher,” manager Terry Francona said. “I think like all players and pitchers, you go through periods where you have things working and, even when you're not at your best, you're still good. I think that's kind of where Klubes is getting.”
He didn’t throw a complete game like he did in his previous two starts, but Kluber (12-6, 2.55 ERA) looked sharp again in the series opener.
Tossing 7 1/3 innings, the hard-throwing right-hander surrendered just one earned run on six hits, walking two and striking out seven.
“He started out tonight with some really good stuff, but they made him work hard in the first,” Francona said. “We scored and he started really attacking the second time through the order. He really became efficient and did exactly what you're supposed to do with a lead.”
Kluber gained some early run support at the outset. Second baseman Jason Kipnis led off the first inning with a double and came around to score on a RBI groundout from Michael Brantley to grab a one run lead.
"Anytime you can score in the first inning and get off to that kind of start, it’s always nice for the confidence of the team,” Kluber said. “And then we kept adding on. When you keep adding on, it adds pressure to the other team.”
It couldn’t be more different on the opposite side of the diamond.
Coming into the ballgame allowing three runs or fewer in his last 11 starts, Reds starter Alfredo Simon (12-7, 3.07 ERA) tossed his worst outing since May 27.
Still leading by one after three innings, Cleveland broke it open with one swing of the bat from Lonnie Chisenhall. The left-handed slugger belted a three-run homer to dead center off Simon, his 11th of the season to go up by four.
Then, Brantley came through again for the Wahoos in the fifth, lining an opposite field RBI single to left for a 5-0 lead.
“Brantley’s been unbelievable,” reliever John Axford said. “His focus day in and day out, every single inning, every single at-bat, and obviously it shows when you can pull together five straight games with multi-hit games.”
Over his last five games, the Indians All-Star center fielder is hitting .524 (11-for-21) with a homer and six RBI.
Simon, also an All-Star but for the National League allowed all five runs over just five innings of work, raising his ERA from 2.84 to 3.07.
Kluber continued to mow down hitters late, retiring 11 straight batters after an error by shortstop Jose Ramirez in the third inning.
“I didn’t have great command early on, but I able to reel it there in the middle of the game and command a little better,” he said.
“It’s really, really amazing to see how well he works hitters,” Axford said. “I think that’s why he’s had so much success this year. He’s been learning along the way and he seems to getting better and stronger as the year moves on.”
Exiting to a standing ovation with two runners on in the eighth, Kluber would however break a 25 inning scoreless streak when Reds first baseman Brayan Pena singled home the only Cincy run off Nick Hagadone in the eighth.
“He's been terrific,” Francona said of his catcher. “I think he's actually been pretty consistent all year. For a guy that doesn't walk a lot, a lot of times you see the batting average fluctuate, especially with a catcher, just because of the wear and tear. I think he's been really consistent.”
Since June 17, Gomes is hitting .328 (43-for-131) with eight homers and 25 RBI over his last 37 ballgames.
“As our younger players our becoming big parts of our team, that gets real exciting for us,” Francona said. “That’s how we’re going to have to get good.”
Coming into the game in a save situation before the long ball by Gomes, Axford also pitched a solid 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief Monday.
“I thought coming into this game, since the All-Star break, he's not quite been [on a roll], which is fortunate for us, because he has a terrific arm,” Fraoncona said of Axord. “It just looked like he made some mistakes early, because when he gets comfortable, he can start going fastball, slider and kind of give you fits whether you're right-handed or left-handed. He's been really good and he's been really valuable.”
The 31-year-old Canadian native has allowed just one earned run over his last 10 appearances.
“Gomes hitting that home run kept me out there for sure,” Axford said. “I got to stay out there and fix my problem that I got myself into and it was good to be able to do that.”
Winners of four straight, Cleveland (57-55) moves to two games over the .500 mark for the first time since July 20, also gaining a game in both the Central Division and American League Wild Card race. The Tribe now sits just 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card seed and 5.5 games behind the first place Detroit Tigers.
“Most of the season has been that we’ll play good and then we’ll falter a little bit, and then we’ll play good and falter again,” Kluber said. “We really can’t afford to do that anymore. We need to keep our foot on the gas pedal and when we’re playing well, carry it out as long as we can."
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