Kluber's night came to an abrupt end after 65 pitches as he was charged with four runs, four hits, a walk and three strikeouts through five innings as the Indians (36-32) fell to the Twins at Progressive Field on Friday, 6-3. With the win, the Twins (30-36) are now five games back of Cleveland in the American League Central standings.
"I think [Kluber] could have kept going," Francona said. "We lean on him so heavily, and we plan on a lot more than that on a night when he had a couple misfires that proved he's human."
The free pass was issued to Twins third baseman Eduardo Escobar in the fourth inning, and it opened the door for the biggest inning of the night for Minnesota.
After walking Escobar, Kluber (10-3) was taxed for three more runs during the inning, marking the most runs given up by the right-hander this season. Logan Morrison reached on a throwing error by Francisco Lindor, and Brian Dozier sent a 1-0 offering from Kluber over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.
"If there was anything different, at all, I didn't see as many chase sliders as I've seen in the past," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We saw some cutters and two-seamers, but that's just one thing I noticed. I didn't see our guys really look fooled on that hard breaking ball."
Kluber also gave up a first-pitch home run to Eddie Rosario, who finished the game 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs.
Minnesota's fourth-inning rally ended Kluber's streak of 26 starts without giving up more than three runs -- the longest streak in American League history.
"I was just out of whack a little bit mechanically," Kluber admitted. "Obviously I didn't make good pitches to a few guys. I made some mistakes, and they took advantage of it."
The last walk issued by Kluber came on May 8 against the Brewers -- in that span, the reigning Cy Young Award winner faced 179 batters. The streak was also the longest by an Indians pitcher since Paul Byrd went 48 innings without allowing a walk from May 4-30, 2007. Kluber's 106-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio still remains one of the best in baseball.
Kluber's streak was the longest in Major League Baseball since Bartolo Colon went 48 1/3 innings without giving up a walk for the Mets in '15.
"If we want to get where we want to go, [Kluber] is going to have a major part in that," Francona said. "So on a night when he didn't command his best, you try to just give him a little break."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Despite a solid start from Twins starter Kyle Gibson, the Tribe found a way to manufacture a run in the sixth inning. Jose Ramirez was able to come around after being walked. The third baseman was able to advance to second on a ground ball and came around on a single up the middle by Yan Gomes. Gomes' hit put runners at first and second with two outs for Lonnie Chisenhall. Chisenhall, who singled earlier in the game, however, struck out to strand the runners and end the threat.
Gomes came through again to spark a two-run rally in the ninth inning, when he sent a 93.6-mph fastball from Taylor Rogers an estimated 405 feet, according to Statcast™, for the catcher's ninth homer of the season. Erik Gonzalez was also able to rip an RBI double off Rodgers. The comeback was cut short after Fernando Rodney came on to strike out Lindor and preserve the win.
SOUND SMART Friday's outing marked Kluber's shortest since Sept. 30, 2017, when he was also pulled after five innings against the White Sox. He was charged with a run and recorded three strikeouts without a walk. The loss also snaps a quality start streak of 14 starts, which is the longest by any Tribe pitcher since Stan Coveleski strung 16 such outings in 1918.
The last time Kluber gave up more than three runs was July 29, 2017 -- also against the White Sox, when he was charged with four runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings.
HE SAID IT "I probably love it more than most people. If you don't walk people, they can't steal like crazy on you. Because he's not real quick to the plate, he's so good at paying attention that if they have to string hits together to beat you, it makes it a lot harder to beat you. Especially if you have the stuff he has." -- Francona, speaking before the game about Kluber
UP NEXT Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (8-4, 3.90 ERA) will start for the Indians on Saturday in the middle game of a three-game series with the Twins at Progressive Field. Carrasco fanned 11 batters in seven shutout innings against the White Sox on Monday. Minnesota will counter with right-hander Fernando Romero (3-2, 3.92 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET.