Kluber hurls 7 scoreless, but Tribe falls in 11
Bullpen gives up back-to-back homers in 8th as winning streak is snapped
CLEVELAND -- Indians outfielder Michael Brantley slowed down as he approached Progressive Field's tall left-field wall, peering up as the baseball struck by Stephen Piscotty sailed over the railing and into the bleacher seats. A smattering of boos swept through a crowd that came to witness another Corey Kluber win.
Piscotty's two-run, go-ahead blast off Josh Tomlin in the 11th inning on Saturday helped send the Indians to a 6-3 loss. It was one of three home runs off the Cleveland bullpen within the final four innings, rendering Kluber's performance moot and snapping a five-game winning streak for the American League Central-leading Tribe.
"It's a really tough one," Tomlin said. "It's frustrating. Those are the games you want to win, you need to win, and we didn't get it done."
Following seven shutout innings from Kluber, right-hander Neil Ramirez took over for the Indians in the eighth, riding a streak of 17 consecutive scoreless outings, dating back to late May. After striking out Dustin Fowler to begin the frame, Ramirez yielded a single to Mark Canha and then surrendered back-to-back home runs to Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis.
That pulled the game into a 3-3 tie, sending Kluber to a no-decision after a strong effort that lowered his ERA to 2.49 on the season. Given how Ramirez has helped solidify the later innings out of the 'pen for the Indians, Kluber shrugged off Saturday's showing as an isolated setback for Cleveland's defacto setup man.
"He's throwing really well for us," Kluber said. "It's easy to magnify today, just because it's the most recent, but he's a good pitcher. He's been a big weapon for us down there. Again, you go through the course of an entire season, people are going to run into a rough outing here and there. It's part of the game."
The A's produced five hits, drew two walks and only struck out three times on Saturday against Kluber. The leader of Cleveland's rotation is a master when it comes to making in-game adjustments, however, and he dodged trouble at every turn. In this outing, Kluber relied heavily on his sinker and cutter and created 11 outs via fly balls.
Indians manager Terry Francona noted that Kluber was not at his best, but he still found a way to adapt against the A's.
"I think it's obvious he's trying to get back to where he can go to the rubber and get in a strong position," Francona said. "But, he's such a good pitcher and he's smart that he gave us seven really good innings. We lean on him so hard, I thought we'd go to [the bullpen]. And it didn't work."
The Indians managed three runs (two earned) against A's righty Edwin Jackson, who spun 6 2/3 shutout frames against the Tribe last week in Oakland. Edwin Encarnacion, Greg Allen and Francisco Lindor each contributed an RBI against the veteran right-hander to build a 3-0 lead.
The Indians could not hold that advantage. Tomlin, who is still adjusting to being used sporadically as a reliever, bore the brunt of the blame for the defeat.
"It's not an excuse whatsoever," Tomlin said. "I just came in and didn't execute pitches, and it cost us the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Stolen rally:Yonder Alonso led off the eighth with a single for the Indians and was replaced by pinch-runner Rajai Davis after Erik Gonzalez missed on two bunt attempts to slip into an 0-2 count. Davis entered with the sole purpose of stealing second, but the veteran was thrown out on his attempt by catcher Jonathan Lucroy. A's reliever Lou Trivino escaped the inning without allowing any damage.
By removing Alonso, Francona was then forced to send Encarnacion in to play first base, eliminating the designated hitter from the Tribe's lineup.
"When the bunt's not in play anymore," Francona said, "Trivino's a guy that I felt the best chance to score is to let Raj run, and go ahead and play a National League game [without the DH]. I didn't want to do it, but I thought that was our best way to win."
Davis said Trivino played the biggest role in stopping Davis from stealing.
"This is my first time in that situation, so I'd probably handle it different now," Davis said. "But, you live and you learn. You've got to give all the credit to the pitcher. If the pitcher doesn't do his job, he doesn't have a chance. But, he did his job. He was quick, and I wasn't able to see that he was quick. It is what it is."
Leaping Lindor: With two outs and a runner on second base in the ninth inning, the Indians handed the ball to closer Cody Allen to try to preserve the 3-3 deadlock. Fowler sliced a 1-2 pitch from Allen to the left side of the infield, where the soft liner seemed destined to find the left-field grass. Lindor swiftly ranged to his right, dove and made the inning-ending catch. As the crowd roared, Lindor moved to a knee and gave a hard fist pump in celebration of the critical out.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Encarnacion took an expensive swing on an inside pitch from Jackson in the fifth. The Tribe slugger pulled a first-pitch sinker into foul territory up the third-base line, where the sharp liner -- one with a 104.9-mph exit velocity, per Statcast™ -- shattered the front of the TV camera used for the Oakland broadcast. More >>
HE SAID IT
"I think that I've always said that I'm not trying to strike guys out. I'm trying to get soft contact and get quick outs, so I don't really put too much stock in the fact that I didn't have a lot of swing and miss today. Aside from a couple balls, I don't think there were really that many that were hit too hard. So, I guess the way I look at it is, whether you get outs via strikeout, groundout, popout, to me, as long as you're getting outs, that's what you want to do." --Kluber
Rookie right-hander Shane Bieber (4-0, 2.97 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Tribe on Sunday, when the Indians host the A's at 1:10 p.m. ET in the rubber game at Progressive Field. In two home starts, Bieber has allowed one run in 12 2/3 innings with 16 strikeouts vs. two walks. Oakland will counter with lefty Brett Anderson (0-2, 7.63).