CLEVELAND -- Jason Kipnis stared at Indians first baseman Carlos Santana for a moment from across the diamond. One pitch into Saturday's game, the second baseman gloved a grounder off the bat of James Dozier and fired the ball to Santana, who jumped off the bag to make the catch.The
CLEVELAND -- Jason Kipnis stared at Indians first baseman Carlos Santana for a moment from across the diamond. One pitch into Saturday's game, the second baseman gloved a grounder off the bat of James Dozier and fired the ball to Santana, who jumped off the bag to make the catch.
The result of the play was a throwing error charged to Kipnis -- the first of two first-inning missteps that loomed large in a 4-2 loss to the Twins at Progressive Field. Maybe Santana could have stretched with his foot still on the bag. Maybe not. Either way, Kipnis did not expect the early mistakes to wind up derailing another stellar start from Tribe ace Corey Kluber.
"You hope they don't come back to have that big of an impact on the game," Kipnis said. "You think Kluber is hopefully going to settle in -- do what he did -- and keep them right there, give us our chance and time to go to work on their pitcher. We couldn't come up with a big hit with the guys on base today."
Over seven innings, Kluber certainly did his part for Cleveland, which saw its lead over the Twins cut to a half-game in the American League Central standings. The right-hander carved up Minnesota's lineup to the tune of 13 strikeouts, marking his third consecutive outing with at least 10 punchouts. Only Hall of Famer Bob Feller has had a longer streak in franchise history, stringing four such starts together between the end of 1938 and the start of '39.
Kluber chalked up his 29th career double-digit strikeout game and continued on the tear he has enjoyed since coming off the disabled list on June 1. In five starts over that time period, he has turned in a 1.29 ERA with a .157 opponents' average and 52 strikeouts against six walks in 35 innings. Kluber ranks fourth among AL pitchers in WAR (2.4 per Fangraphs), even with a month spent on the shelf.
"He was ridiculous," Twins outfielder Chris Gimenez said. "I think he struck out, like, 38 guys today. He was really good today. Breaking ball was phenomenal. He was Kluber."
Ask Kluber about all the strikeouts -- eight looking on Saturday -- and he'll answer with a shrug.
"I couldn't honestly care less about striking out 13 guys," Kluber said. "I would have rather not let those guys score in the first inning."
Kipnis' throw, combined with Santana's jump-and-spin reaction, allowed Dozier to reach base to open the game. Kluber then issued a walk to Joe Mauer and surrendered a run-scoring double to Robbie Grossman, who ripped a pitch into the right-field corner. Then, catcher Yan Gomes made an errant pick-off attempt to third base, giving Mauer ample time to trot home to give the Twins a swift 2-0 advantage.
Kluber was eventually taken off the hook for a hard-luck loss, but the mistakes in his 25-pitch first inning were still felt later in the game. With the right-hander's pitch count at 106, Indians manager Terry Francona handed the ball to closer Cody Allen in the eighth inning. Dozier then belted a leadoff, go-ahead home run to put Cleveland on its way to a second straight loss.
"Boy, he was good," Francona said of Kluber. "It's a shame, because the way the first inning unfolded, not only did they get the two [runs], but it probably cost him pitching the eighth inning. Instead of having the first-pitch out of the game, which is about the best thing you could ever hope for, all of a sudden, he's pitching out of trouble."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.