Masterful Kluber wins No. 15 as Tribe rolls

Ramirez backs sterling start with 3 hits including 36th homer

August 15th, 2018

CINCINNATI -- The Indians sent nine batters to the plate in the top of the first inning on Tuesday night. Ace then needed only nine pitches to retire the Reds in order in the home half of the frame. It was clear from the outset that Cleveland was in complete control.

In an 8-1 victory at Great American Ball Park, Kluber used a wealth of run support to his advantage, carving his way through Cincinnati's lineup. The result was a seven-inning gem by the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who joined , Max Scherzer and -- who also won Tuesday -- as the only pitchers with 15 wins on the season in the process.

"He's almost getting that second boost going into the end of the season," Indians catcher said of Kluber. "It's kind of what you want to see out of everybody -- out of all our starters and all of our players. It's good to see him getting back into his rhythm."

Over his past four starts, Kluber has gone 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA.

-- once again an MVP contender for the American League Central-leading Indians (68-51) -- powered the lineup with three hits and three runs. His showing featured an RBI single, a hustle double and his third homer in his past three games, giving him 36 shots on the season. Only Boston's J.D. Martinez (37) has more in the Majors.

Ramirez said he is not focusing on the home run race with Martinez at the moment.

"That's not really in my head," he said through team interpreter Will Clements. "Any time that I go to the plate, I try to just get good pitches and put good swings on it, and if the ball goes out, then it goes out. I really hope that J.D. hits 200 home runs this year."

J-Ram chasing down J.D. in home run race

Ramirez got Cleveland's lineup rolling with a single in the first inning that scored shortstop , who leads MLB with 102 runs scored. That sparked a four-run outburst against Reds starter , who also surrendered a two-run single to in the frame. Ramirez then doubled and scored in the second.

In the sixth inning, Ramirez belted a towering solo shot off reliever , who chewed up 4 1/3 innings after Romano lasted only five outs. The eight runs combined off Romano and Lorenzen were more than sufficient for Kluber, who improved to 15-6 with a 2.68 ERA in the victory.

"He was good," manager Terry Francona said of Kluber. "There was some early contact, and he kind of stayed off the barrel, like you're supposed to. It was good."

Cincinnati's lone breakthrough against Kluber arrived in the seventh, when pulled a pitch into the right-field corner, where outfielder stumbled as the ball rolled along the wall. Barnhart wound up with a triple and then crossed the plate on a base hit by .

Prior to Tuesday's game, the Indians announced that starter was placed on the disabled list due to a stress fracture in his right fibula. That was tough news for one of baseball's elite rotations, but it is not unfamiliar territory for a group that reached the 2016 World Series with multiple starters out with injury.

Cleveland was already planning on leaning heavily on Kluber down the stretch, but his outings become increasingly important in the wake of Bauer's situation. A few hours after Bauer was officially shelved, Kluber faced the minimum over his first four frames and finished with seven strikeouts against two walks in a 96-pitch effort.

"It's disappointing. Trevor has been a huge part of this team," Kluber said. "I think you take the approach that the 25 guys you have are going to suit up and give it everything they have. You try to find a way to win each and every day, regardless of who may be hurt and who may be unavailable.

"That's what we've done in the past, and we've kind of avoided getting wrapped up in losing somebody important."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED

Hustle runs: After a one-out single by in the second, Ramirez pulled a pitch from Romano with an exit velocity of 102.5 mph. Brantley had to dodge out of the way of the hard-hit grounder before sprinting to second.

At first, it looked like Brantley was going to stop there, but he continued on to third, as right fielder relayed the ball to second baseman Scooter Gennett. Ramirez tore around first and dove into second with a double right behind Gennett. The combined hustle of Brantley and Ramirez set up a sac fly by Alonso and an RBI single from to knock Romano out of the game.

"I started off hard out of the box, thinking it was a double," Ramirez said. "And then I almost stopped when I was coming around first base, because I saw Brantley, at that moment, was hitting second base. But then, when I saw him turn on and go, I was able to advance as well."

Even third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh was surprised Ramirez pulled off the two-base hit.

"I'm sure they thought maybe they had a shot at Michael at third," Sarbaugh said. "Just because of how the play developed. And then, out of nowhere, here comes Josey diving into second. I was like, 'Wow.' That set up that inning."

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY

With two outs in the third, drew a walk and then tried to steal second against Kluber and Gomes. Initially, Hamilton was called safe on a bang-bang play -- momentarily resulting in his 30th theft of the season. That changed following a Cleveland challenge, which resulted in the stolen base being overturned via replay review. Replays showed Lindor getting a tag on the back of Hamilton's legs before his hands reached the base on a head-first slide.

That made baserunners 0-for-6 vs. Kluber this season after they stole 15 bases in 20 attempts against the ace in 2017. Over '15-17, runners stole 35 bases in 54 tries against Kluber.

"I think I'm doing a little better job of keeping guys close," Kluber said. "But more so, I think it's just [the catchers]."

SOUND SMART

Ramirez currently has 27 stolen bases, 31 doubles and 36 home runs. With three more steals, he will join Grady Sizemore (2008) as the only players in Indians history to reach at least 30 in each of those categories. The last MLB player to have at least 30 steals, doubles and homers in one season was in '12.

HE SAID IT

"He has that aggressive mentality. He's always looking to take the extra base, and he's got a lot of confidence on the bases. You put that together, and you have a very good baserunner, which he is. It's just his instincts, just the way he reads a ball off the bat." -- Sarbaugh, on Ramirez

"I think he's trending in that direction. I think there's more in there. I think as he gets back to where it is, you'll see more of the finish or the power to his pitches." -- Francona, on Kluber

UP NEXT

Rookie Shane Bieber (6-2, 4.24 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Tribe on Wednesday, when the Reds host the Indians in the 2018 Ohio Cup finale at 7:10 p.m. ET at Great American Ball Park. Bieber is 2-0 with a 3.82 ERA in five road starts this season. Cincinnati will counter with righty (0-1, 6.75).