Kluber's complete game sends Tribe to 3-1 win over Chicago
Offense rallies late; Indians ace bounces back in a big way
CLEVELAND—For a season that has endured countless ups and downs, there has been one constant that has defined the Indians all year long.
Saturday night at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario was no different.
Tossing his third complete game victory of the season, Corey Kluber (14-9, 2.51 ERA) and the Tribe edged the White Sox, 3-1 to win their second straight over Chicago in the series.
“That was tremendous,” manager Terry Francona said. “He had a lot left in the tank it looked like. When you can play a close game like that and not get your bullpen up, that’s probably how strong we feel about the way he’s pitching.”
After suffering losses in his last three starts, Kluber bounced back in a big way hurling nine dominant innings against the Pale Hose. Yielding just five hits, the right-hander didn't walk a batter and struck out eight.
“He spent a side session working a little bit on his direction to the plate,” Francona said. “I think that freed him up and he commanded the ball, especially with his fastball early. “He threw to the first eight hitters exclusively fastballs.”
The only damage against the Cleveland ace came in the third inning. White Sox left fielder Jordan Danks stole second off Kluber after a one-out single, and scored on an error by rookie Jesus Aguilar on a groundball to first off the bat of Adam Eaton.
Whiffing five batters in the ballgame, Kluber's 223 strikeouts on the season are the most by a Tribe pitcher since Gaylord Perry in 1973.
The extra side session in the bullpen seemed to work perfectly for the American League Cy Young candidate.
“I was just getting a little too closed off the last few starts,” Kluber said. “We just worked on my direction a little bit in the bullpen and it was a pretty easy adjustment nothing major. It was an easy fix and got it back on track.”
With the victory, Cleveland (73-67) moves up a game in the A.L. Wild Card race now sitting four games in back of the Detroit Tigers.
They also improve to 17-1-4 series record on the year after winning the first game of a series.
Offensively, three key players that have been hot at the plate since the All-Star break provided all the runs the Indians needed on the night.
Carlos Santana drilled a solo homer on the first pitch from White Sox starter Jose Quintana in the fourth to tie the game up at 1-1. It was the switch-hitting slugger’s 25th long ball of the season, the most by a Cleveland player since Santana hit 27 home runs in 2011.
Like he has all season, Quintana held Tribe hitters to just the one run on seven hits through six quality innings.
But Cleveland bats would come to life in the seventh once ChiSox manager Robin Ventura went to his bullpen. After right-hander Zach Putnam (4-3, 2.14 ERA) walked Michael Bourn to lead off the inning, 21-year-old shortstop Jose Ramirez drilled an RBI triple to deep center giving the Tribe a one run lead.
Four pitches later, Michael Brantley got in on the action lining an RBI base-hit to right field for the club’s third run of the contest.
“He definitely had an effect on the game tonight,” Francona said of the speedy Ramirez. “I thought Bourny did a good job when he was out first making them pay attention to him. And then Jose got a pitch he could hit and that changed the game.”
Over his last 22 games, the switch-hitting infielder is now hitting .326 (28-for-86) with eight extra-base hits, nine RBI and 12 runs scored.
Through translator Roberto Perez, Ramirez spoke of his recent success at the plate.
“He said he was trying to put the ball in play,” Perez said. “He [Putnam] had a really good splitter so he wasn’t trying to do too much with it and put the ball in play. He said he was trying to run as hard as he could because he didn’t know if it was going to bounce.”
Getting his first taste of the big leagues as a September call-up last year, the Indians own a 52-36 record with Ramirez on the roster over the last two seasons.
“He said there is no pressure, he’s just playing hard like he always does and playing to win,” Perez said. “Last year it helped him a lot, he got experience and saw how guys handled things.”
For now, it has been Indians pitching that has handled the opposition, giving them the potential to play in October again. Over the last 25 games, the rotation owns a 1.94 ERA having allowed just 33 earned runs in 153 innings.
“That’s the only choice we have right now is to put the past behind us, and focus on each game as itself, going out there and try and win every night,” Kluber said.
Up next for Indians: The Tribe looks for the series sweep against Chicago in the finale Sunday afternoon. Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (6-4, 2.94 ERA) toes the rubber opposite of White Sox starter Scott Carroll (5-9, 5.07 ERA) at 1:05 p.m.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, it would seem to me Chiz's D has been getting better - especially his throws which seem to be lasers to first.
Currently the Indians are 2 games behind the Tigers in the lose column and 5 games behind KC.
KC plays NY today and goes into Detroit for 3 games
Det plays San Fran tonight and 3 games against KC.
If this happens before the Indians hit Detroit next weekend
KC goes 0-4 78 - 66
det goes 3-1 80 - 66
Indians 4-1 77 - 68
We have 3 way horse race to the finish.
This team has been the most interesting, frustrating and biggest tease team to watch.
Aguilar does appear to be overmatched every time he is anywhere on a big league field. I fear THIS IS the mean.