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Kluber's return clouded by miscues, weather

Tribe ace allows 7 runs (3 earned) sandwiched between 2 rain delays in loss
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Indians ace Corey Kluber said something just felt off Monday night during a 7-0 loss to the Pirates at Progressive Field.

Maybe it was that his start was sandwiched between a pair of rain delays -- a 55-minute delay that pushed back the scheduled 7:10 p.m. first pitch, and a 27-minute pause in the bottom of the third inning before a final wave of showers ended the game after the sixth.

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CLEVELAND -- Indians ace Corey Kluber said something just felt off Monday night during a 7-0 loss to the Pirates at Progressive Field.

Maybe it was that his start was sandwiched between a pair of rain delays -- a 55-minute delay that pushed back the scheduled 7:10 p.m. first pitch, and a 27-minute pause in the bottom of the third inning before a final wave of showers ended the game after the sixth.

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Perhaps Kluber felt off because his start took a turn for the worse in the second inning, when two misplays opened the door for a four-run inning to give the Pirates an early lead, setting up Kluber's departure after the fourth. It was just one of those days.

"[Kluber] is probably the [No. 1] guy, but I don't know if he can go the whole year and not have a hiccup or two," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "I'm not sure that's realistic."

Kluber (12-6) exited after 72 pitches, surrendering seven runs -- three earned -- across nine hits. The surging Pirates (52-49) won their 10th straight and took the first game of the Interleague series, while the Indians (54-45) have been shut out in back-to-back games.

Video: PIT@CLE: Kluber strikes out Moran swinging in the 3rd

Pirates starter Trevor Williams (8-7) pitched all six innings, walking two, striking out one and scattering four hits.

After retiring Pittsburgh in order to lead off the game, Kluber ran into trouble in the second. Jason Kipnis bobbled a routine ground ball, settling for a forceout of Colin Moran at second instead of an inning-ending double play. With two outs, a botched infield fly involving Jose Ramirez and Yonder Alonso kept the inning alive for Josh Harrison, who cashed in on the Tribe's mistakes with a three-run homer. All four runs that inning were unearned.

Monday's start was Kluber's first since July 12, when he was taxed for six earned runs in 7 1/3 innings at home against the Yankees. The next day, the right-hander received a gel injection in his right knee to help stabilize his delivery. Kluber also elected to sit out the All-Star Game.

"I think I've been telling you guys for a little bit [that] I feel out of whack," Kluber said. "I've got to figure what to do to rein it back in and get to where I want to be. I don't think it's a matter of having more days off than usual. I think I didn't feel like I was in a good spot beforehand, and I just have to work through it and get back to where I want to be."

Kluber said he's not making any excuses, but after the 10-day break Francona wasn't surprised the three-time All-Star ran into some problems.

Video: PIT@CLE: Francona on Kluber's tough start in 7-0 loss

"I thought his fastball command was not where it usually is," Francona said. "That is probably the worry going in. He's such a creature of habit, and his routine was different this time. He'll be fine.

"Some nights when you need a little help, you don't get it."

Kluber said his command troubles stem from mechanical issues he needs to iron out.

"I just have to get my delivery to the point where I can make good pitches consistently," Kluber said. "My knee was fine."

Video: PIT@CLE: Kluber on his tough start vs. the Pirates

Kluber entered Monday with a 2.76 ERA, but owns a 5.21 ERA in his last seven starts spanning 38 innings, with 40 hits and 31 strikeouts.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Yonder's costly error
Though Kipnis misplayed the grounder hit by Josh Bell in the second, the second baseman was at least able to salvage an out on the play. Alonso's misplay, which was ruled an error, kept the inning alive for the Pirates, and forced Kluber to labor for an additional 18 pitches.

Kluber forced David Freese into a routine popup in front of the pitcher's mound. Ramirez, the third baseman, tried calling off Alonso, who stayed on the play. Alonso reached over Ramirez, and the ball deflected off Alonso's glove and onto the infield to put runners at the corners and set the stage for Harrison's home run.

Video: PIT@CLE: Freese reaches as Alonso, Ramirez collide

"Yonder called it probably a half a second before Josey," Francona said. "It's high enough to where they can get to it, but they're on a dead run, and the mound is right in the way. That was like the perfect storm, and it was costly."

Adding insult to Alonso's error, he also finished 0-for-2 with a walk and a costly strikeout with the bases loaded in the sixth. The first baseman worked a 1-2 count before striking out to Williams on a changeup that was low and outside.

HE SAID IT
"Those two plays had nothing to do with me hanging an 0-2 breaking ball that cost us three runs, and then I wasn't able to get the last one for a while, and they scored another one." -- Kluber, on the plays in the second inning that led to four unearned runs

UP NEXT
Rookie Shane Bieber (5-1, 3.53 ERA) is expected to start Wednesday for the Tribe in a 7:10 p.m. ET showing at Progressive Field. The right-hander last pitched in the Majors on July 13 against the Yankees, earning a win while holding New York to four runs (three earned) and five hits with two walks and six strikeouts across seven innings. The Pirates will counter with righty Joe Musgrove (3-4, 4.08 ERA), who was taxed for five runs against the Brewers on July 15.

Casey Harrison is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. You can follow him on Twitter @Casey_Harrison1.

Cleveland Indians