CLEVELAND -- The Indians pounced for four runs in the first inning, and that would be more than enough for a dominant Corey Kluber in an 8-1 rout of the Blue Jays on Sunday as Cleveland finished a three-game sweep at Progressive Field.Kluber continued his lights-out play with 7 2/3
CLEVELAND -- The Indians pounced for four runs in the first inning, and that would be more than enough for a dominant Corey Kluber in an 8-1 rout of the Blue Jays on Sunday as Cleveland finished a three-game sweep at Progressive Field.
Kluber continued his lights-out play with 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball and a season-high 14 strikeouts. This was Kluber's 10th straight start with at least eight strikeouts, which is a club record. Kluber had been battling a sore neck, but he showed no signs of weakness after two days of extra rest.
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"He's throwing the ball good, that's for sure," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's kind of set the bar pretty high. In this game, when you're consistent, that's a good thing. But once you set the bar and you're consistent at that level. … He's one of the best in the game. It's nice when a guy reaches that point and continues to really get after it and work so he can even try to get better. We rely on him so much, and he knows that. It's nice to put his name in there every five days."
The lone damage came on Kevin Pillar's third-inning 451-foot homer as projected by Statcast™, which is Toronto's third-longest this season and Pillar's longest since Statcast™ was established in 2015. Kluber only allowed two batters to reach scoring position and didn't issue a walk until the final batter he faced.
The Indians hit Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ early and often, as he gave up a season-high seven runs. The first three Cleveland batters reached base on Happ's first four pitches, and Brandon Guyer hit a bases-clearing double later in the inning. The Tribe added a run in the fourth on Francisco Lindor's single to right, and Michael Brantley ended a 54-game, 232-plate appearance drought with a two-run homer to center field in the sixth.
"I think for this one, the [pitching] line is the line and I'm responsible for that," Happ said. "I need to get better results. If you dig into it, you guys saw how the game went, I think two hard-hit balls before that home run in the sixth. Overall, I was still feeling good about how I was throwing the ball and getting softer contact and pitching all right. But again, what matters is the line and I didn't keep us close enough today."
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Corey Kluber, escape artist: Toronto couldn't manage much against Kluber and only put multiple men on base in one inning. After Josh Donaldson's strikeout to lead off the sixth, Justin Smoak drew an eight-pitch walk and Kendrys Morales sent a single to center field. But Kluber got Steve Pearce to roll over on a sinker and induce an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
"Really at that point, I wasn't trying to get a double play," Kluber said. "It was nice to get one, but [I was] just trying to make good pitches. I know that Pearce is a dangerous hitter and I didn't want to make a mistake to him. I kind of did. We were trying to go away with the fastball and it kind of ran middle-in. I think he might have been looking away and it ended up getting in on him a bit. He hit it luckily right to [Lindor] and we were able to turn a double play."
Guyer gets back into it: The Indians brought in Guyer last August as a batter who could hit lefties hard. He slashed .333/.461/.553 in 152 plate appearances against lefties last season but had struggled coming into Sunday, with just a .183/.258/.300 line in 67 plate appearances this season. That changed when he smoked his bases-clearing double in the first on a ball that left his bat at 97.2 mph, according to Statcast™.
"That was a big hit for us, really big," Francona said. "Because he was such a force for us the second half of last year. To get him, when he came back from being hurt, there hasn't been a ton of at-bats. That's why he left him in to face Smitty, just because we can get him going. He's such a productive bat, especially against left-handers."
"That's always nice. To score early is a big boost, let alone to put up four in the first. Kind of spreads things out early. It gives the pitcher a lot of room for error, but it also puts the other guy on the ropes. Later on in the game, you kind of see what can happen."
-- Kluber, on getting early run support
"He's one of the best in baseball. We've seen it before, but today was as good as I've seen him. He can dot it up. Really good breaking ball, strikeout guy -- yeah, he was really good."
-- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, on Kluber
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With the sweep, the Indians are back to .500 at home (24-24) for the first time since May 15. They have only been above .500 once this year -- after they won their home opener against the White Sox.
"It's huge, especially with this great group of fans that we have supporting us day in and day out," Brantley said. "To come home to home territory and feel comfortable and get victories and win series is very important for the rest of the way."
• The Blue Jays were swept on the road for the first time this season. It marked the first time Toronto was swept by Cleveland since June 28-July 1, 2010.
Blue Jays: Left-hander Francisco Liriano (5-5, 6.15 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays open a four-game series vs. the A's on Monday night at Rogers Centre, with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. This start originally belonged to Aaron Sanchez, but he was recently placed on the 10-day disabled list with a blister on his right middle finger. Liriano will instead be making this start on three days' rest, but he threw just 54 pitches during his last start so rest should not be an issue.
Indians: In a makeup of a rainout from May 25, Josh Tomlin (6-9, 5.74 ERA) will start against the Reds on Monday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field. Tomlin was tagged for five runs (four earned) over 6 1/3 innings when he faced Cincinnati in May. He has thrown at least seven innings in each of his last two starts.
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Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.