CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber did not require much help, but the A's made life a little easier for the Indians ace with a pile of miscues on Thursday afternoon. In his return from the disabled list, Kluber was dominant for Cleveland, which took advantage of three Oakland errors in an 8-0 victory at Progressive Field.
Two of the blunders for the A's came in a wild sixth inning that included nine batters, four runs, two errors, two walks, two replay challenges, a passed ball, a bloop single and some levity when the sprinklers came on in the outfield. It was a turbulent turn of events that transformed a pitcher's duel into a blowout.
"He was crisp right from the get-go," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "The score ended up 8-0. But, in his six innings, it was 1-0 the whole way and, man, he was really good."
Kluber, who was activated before the game after being shelved for a month with a lower back issue, piled up 10 strikeouts and issued one walk in six shutout innings for the Indians. That extended Kluber's club record with his 18th game consisting of 10 or more strikeouts and no more than one walk. Hall of Famer Bob Feller ranks second with eight such games.
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Through the first five innings, Kluber and A's starter Jharel Cotton locked horns in a tightly-contested battle. The lone breakthrough to that point came in the third, when Daniel Robertson doubled and then scored via a passed ball and a wild pitch. That 1-0 lead held until the sixth, when the wheels came off for Oakland.
Cotton exited after 5 2/3 innings, in which he was charged with five runs, but only one earned. The Indians added another three runs on three hits in the seventh, helped by a fielding gaffe by left fielder Mark Canha.
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"Everybody wants to do really well," Canha said. "There's nobody that doesn't, and it's easy when you're not playing well as a team to try extra hard. Sometimes it goes in your favor, and then sometimes it hits the fan like it did today. It's a combination of things, and you just have to keep trying, keep your mind right and stay positive."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Twice as challenging: Within the chaotic sixth inning came a play that involved a pair of challenges -- one from each team. With the bases loaded, Bradley Zimmer grounded a pitch from Cotton to second baseman Chad Pinder, who fired the ball home for an out. Catcher Josh Phegley then threw to first, but Zimmer narrowly beat the throw to the bag. Meanwhile, Carlos Santana sprinted from second and scored, but was initially called out on a tag by Phegley. The Indians challenged that out call and the A's challenged the safe call on Zimmer at first. After a replay review, both Santana (overturned) and Zimmer (confirmed) were deemed safe, giving Cleveland a 4-0 lead.
"Honestly, I thought he was going to beat me," Phegley said. "There was some confusion. I saw him break, and he got way down there before we needed to make that play. I was a little out of position, but I thought he beat it, and then when we got the call I thought they bailed us out from the whole ordeal.
"Just some weird stuff happening today. We kind of let it snowball. You look up, I think it was 4-0, and it felt like 25-0. It shouldn't feel that way. We can't let stuff like that take us out of the game, and I think we kind of saw it snowball mentally for us, and play by play, things start happening, and you gotta be professional and continue to give the effort and finish the game."
Running out of a rally: In the sixth inning, Adam Rosales led off with a single, giving the A's their first runner to lead off an inning against Kluber. Clinging to a 1-0 lead at the time, Kluber followed with a critical strikeout against Matt Joyce, and Rosales was thrown out at second on the play by catcher Roberto Perez. Kluber then fanned Canha with a curve that tailed far outside, ending the inning. The Tribe ran away with the game from there, scoring seven runs over the next two frames.
"It's still 1-0 at that point," Kluber said. "So if he doesn't go on the checked swing, all of a sudden it's first and second with nobody out. That was a pretty big moment in changing the complexion of that inning."
"He had real good command of his breaking ball today, both his slider and his cutter," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Made us look bad."
"Those things seem to be a little more funny when you're winning than when you're losing." -- Francona, on the sprinklers coming on in the sixth inning
"That brought me back to the World Series, Game 1." -- Perez, on Kluber's outing
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Kluber generated 24 swinging strikes in six innings, marking his most in a single game since also recording 24 in his 18-strikeout showing against St. Louis on May 13, 2015. Kluber's career high of 27 swinging strikes came in a start against the White Sox on Aug. 27, 2014.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the fifth inning, Kluber sent a 92-mph sinker inside to Pinder on the first pitch, as the A's second baseman squared around to bunt. The baseball struck the handle of Pinder's bat -- between his hands -- but he recoiled in apparent pain and was sent to first with a hit-by-pitch. The Indians challenged the call, which was overturned to a fouled bunt after a replay review lasting just over a minute. Pinder returned to the batter's box and eventually grounded out.
Athletics: The A's return to the Bay Area to begin a six-game homestand Friday, starting with three games opposite Washington. Right-hander Andrew Triggs will be on the mound in the Interleague series opener Friday, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT on MLB.TV.
Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin (3-6, 5.79 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Tribe in an 8:15 p.m. ET tilt on MLB.TV against the Royals on Friday in Kansas City. Tomlin, who spun a complete game on Sunday against K.C., leads the Majors in walk rate (0.6 per nine innings) and walk percentage (1.7).
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