DETROIT -- Yan Gomes' three-run homer punctuated a seven-run Indians onslaught against Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez, sending Corey Kluber cruising to his first win of the season in a 10-1 Cleveland victory on Saturday afternoon at Comerica Park.
"It's awesome," Kluber said of the wealth of run support. "You go out and score three runs in the first, that's a huge boost. But then they didn't stop there. They poured it on for five more, I think, in the third and kept scoring the whole game."
Hours after Josh Tomlin won a pitching duel over Justin Verlander on Friday night, the suspense ended early on Saturday. Cleveland sapped 32 pitches out of Sanchez (2-2) in a two-run first inning, then churned out five hits in six batters to chase him in the third. Gomes jumped on a first-pitch slider from Sanchez and sent it out to left-center for his second home run of the season. Once Tyler Naquin and Carlos Santana greeted Kyle Ryan with back-to-back doubles, the Indians had hit for the cycle in the inning.
"It's not the type of outing we want out of our starting pitching," said manager Brad Ausmus, whose team lost its third straight and had a closed-door discussion after the game. "Pretty simple."
Kluber (1-3), who received just three runs of support over his first three starts combined, was already rolling. He struck out seven of Detroit's first 15 batters before Jarrod Saltalamacchia's sixth homer of the season got Detroit on the scoreboard in the fifth. Kluber struck out 10 batters over eight innings of one-run, two-hit ball.
"You could tell Klubes was on top of his game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And, it's nice for him to be able to pitch where the ball to Saltalamacchia doesn't cost him a game, or we're still tied or something like that. That was good. He threw a bunch of strikes with a lot of different pitches, different speeds, kept them off balance and our offense did a really good job."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Yan fire: Gomes headed into Saturday's game mired in a cold spell (.143 average with 11 strikeouts in his past 28 at-bats), but helped get the Tribe's offense rolling against Sanchez. The catcher delivered an RBI single in the first inning and then added a three-run home run (Gomes' second shot of the season) in Cleveland's five-run third. He wasn't done, either. In the seventh, an RBI double by Gomes gave him five RBIs on the afternoon.
"He swung the bat really good," Francona said. "We had a 3-0 lead and, all of a sudden, on one pitch, we spread it out. He took a really good swing. I thought a lot of guys had good at-bats today."
The first is the new sixth: Sanchez won his first two starts this season with early success, tossing five scoreless innings each time before running out of gas in the sixth. On Saturday, for the second straight start, he didn't have it early. All three Cleveland hits in the opening frame came in two-strike counts, including back-to-back RBI singles by Gomes and Jose Ramirez, as Sanchez struggled to finish off hitters.
"I'm ahead in the count a couple days and still have base hits," Sanchez said. "It's something, right now, that I can't control. Those guys put good swings on all pitches. I would like to give you a really good answer, but I really don't know what's going on. But I feel good. I'm healthy." More >
KKKKKKKKKKluber: Partly due to some tough luck (a handful of fly balls were lost in the sun, leading to three runs), Kluber allowed six runs in his previous start. Against Detroit, the ace bounced back in a big way. The right-hander struck out at least two batters in four of his eight innings. Kluber generated five strikeouts with his sinker, three with his curveball and two with his cutter.
"We've just been working on going at them from the get-go," Gomes said. "I think we sometimes have been a little timid and passive and tried to hold back some pitches. Early in the season, you want to just go for it and just kind of throw everything right out of the gate, go get everything feeling good and see which pitch is going to work out that day. I think we figured that out early in the game." More >
Take a seat: Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor made a jaw-dropping defensive play in the seventh inning. Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera ripped a pitch from Kluber toward short, where it one-hopped sharply at Lindor, who gloved it as he tumbled over backward. Lindor recovered in time to throw Cabrera out by a step at first base, eliciting a stunned groan from the Comerica Park audience.
"I had nowhere else to go," Lindor said. "As soon as he hit it, usually you take one step back with your left leg or right leg, so you can get around the ball. But, I couldn't turn. It was quick and, after that, I was like, 'Well, I had to either keep it in front of me or find a way to catch the ball.' I just threw the glove and it got me." More >
"That was an interesting play. I don't know if he stayed in front of it or he couldn't get out of the way of it, but he gathered himself and made a play. We don't have very many days where we spread it out like this where they can relax a little bit and have some fun. That was good for them." --Francona, on Lindor's play in the seventh inning
"It's no different than 2014 or 2015. Same thing happened. Quick start, we're the best team on the planet. Struggle a little bit, and we'll never win again. I mean, there's got to be a middle ground, I think." -- Ausmus, on the Tigers' recent struggles
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Saturday's outing marked the 17th time in Kluber's career that he has piled up at least 10 strikeouts with no more than one walk issued. That is a franchise record for such outings. Hall of Famer Bob Feller ranks second in Indians history with eight such performances.
Kluber leads the Majors with 16 such games over the 2014-16 seasons combined. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw ranks second in that span with 15 outings consisting of 10 or more punchouts and one walk or fewer.
Indians: Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (2-0, 2.79 ERA) is scheduled to toe the rubber on Sunday, when the Indians wrap up this three-game road series in Detroit with a 1:10 p.m. ET tilt at Comerica Park. With a win, Cleveland would notch its first three-game series sweep in the Motor City since Aug. 25-27, 2008.
Tigers:Shane Greene (1-1, 7.15) takes the mound in Sunday's series 1:10 ET finale hoping to avoid his own opening-inning trouble, as well as avoid a series sweep.
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