Chen, Royals tripped up by Indians' Kluber
Veteran lefty chased in five-run fifth; KC drops three of four in series
CLEVELAND -- This has not been a pleasant stop of late for the Royals. They seem to get a chilly reception and it's not always the weather.
Cleveland's inhospitable Indians often knock them cold as they did on a 49-degree Thursday, 5-1, with right-hander Corey Kluber wielding a mighty hammer.
Kluber pitched his first career complete game, striking out a career-high 11 and giving up only four singles. All in a brisk 2 hours, 15 minutes.
"He handcuffed us. He threw a great game," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We couldn't do anything with him, nothing all day long."
Or as the Royals' Alex Gordon put it: "You give him credit and look at our offense today and say, 'We stunk.' That's how it was."
In the end, the Indians won the series, three games to one, and have taken 11 of their last 16 games over the Royals at Progressive Field.
"That never crossed our mind," Gordon said. "This year's a new year and hopefully when we come back, it'll be a different story. They're a good team, give 'em credit."
Left-hander Bruce Chen sashayed through the first four innings with hardly a problem. First baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Brett Hayes collaborated on a sterling double play that smoothed out Chen's first inning.
Asdrubal Cabrera, by virtue of a single, a passed ball and a wild pickoff throw by Chen, was at third base with one out. Jason Kipnis bounced to Hosmer, who stepped on first base.
"I was right there next to the bag so I figured if we got the out at first, might as well just chuck it and see what happens," Hosmer said. "The throw was up and Hayes did a good job of staying in position, not blocking the plate and getting in and making the tag."
Trouble was, the Indians wondered if Hayes violated the new rule on not blocking home plate as he tagged Cabrera. Umpire crew chief Bill Miller initiated a replay review and the double play call was ruled to stand. While they were at it, the New York replay reviewers apparently also decided the out call was good as well.
"I was attempting to get out in front and give him a lane like the rule states," Hayes said. "The throw was high, I just jumped back, tagged him and they called him out. It's one of those things where it's not black-or-white and they're still trying to figure things out."
With that, Chen looked like he might keep pace with Kluber.
"In the first inning, that play that Hoz and Hayes made was tremendous. Bruce kind of settled in from that point," Yost said. "When Bruce is getting popups and flyouts, you know he's really on his game. They didn't really center him up, even in the fifth inning. They hit balls that found holes."
Sure enough. The Indians got five hits -- including a two-run single by David Murphy and a two-run double by Cabrera -- along with a walk and a sacrifice to take a five-run lead.
"He was cruising, making good pitches," Hayes said. "Fifth inning, I didn't see anything different except what hole did they not hit? Let's be honest. Up the middle, snuck one down the line. Before we knew it, it was 5-0."
The good times were over for Chen.
"I have to go out there and be more consistent the whole game," he said.
Royals rookie Michael Mariot, a right-hander, took over and made a big impression. He struck out Nick Swisher and Kipnis to end the fifth, and finished the game. In his 3 1/3 innings, Mariot struck out four and allowed just one hit.
"It's nice to get outs. You feel confident once you get 'em," Mariot said. "Especially that first inning, I came in and got two strikeouts, and it definitely boosted my confidence."
Most importantly to his manager, Mariot saved the rest of the bullpen for this weekend series at Baltimore.
"On a scale of 1-to-10, Mariot's job was a 10. What he came in and did today was fantastic," Yost said. "That helped us big-time going into the weekend. That's those guys' job: Hold the game where it is and climb back in. He did his job, but we couldn't climb back in."
No, not the way Kluber was going. He became the first Indians pitcher to throw a complete game with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks since CC Sabathia back on Sept. 7, 2005, at Detroit.
"He's not the loudest guy in the clubhouse, but there's a fire there, man," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Kluber. "He competes. One of the nice things about the way he pitches, he gives me a reason to brag about him, which I love. He wants to be really good and he goes at it the right way. For a kid that doesn't have a ton of time in the Major Leagues, he's a good pro."
The only run against Kluber was unearned, scored on Omar Infante's single and first baseman Swisher's error on Mike Moustakas' ground ball.
"He mixes up his pitches well, he throws four pitches for strikes. He was in-and-out and hitting his spots," Gordon said. "Down 5-1, we were trying to make something happen and never got anything going. Give him credit, he attacked the zone and put it to us today."
Did Kluber make any mistakes?
"When he did, we missed 'em," Gordon said.
It was that kind of day, a typical day for the Royals in Cleveland.