CLEVELAND -- On a day when Indians fans were celebrating the news that their All-Star shortstop, Francisco Lindor, was activated off the injured list, his backup ended up stealing the spotlight in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Entering the day hitting. 077, Max Moroff boosted his average 61 points, going 2-for-3 with a home run, a walk and two RBIs that helped lift the Indians to an 8-4 victory over the Braves in Game 1 at Progressive Field. The big blast came in the bottom of the fourth, when the 25-year-old launched his first homer of the season -- and seventh of his career -- that tied that game at 2.
“He’s another guy that hadn’t come up with a lot to show for anything yet,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But had a couple big ones today.”
The rest of the offense followed Moroff’s lead in the next inning, during which the Indians sent 11 batters to the plate. A Greg Allen double -- his second hit of the season -- broke the tie before Tyler Naquin, Moroff, Leonys Martin and Jason Kipnis each knocked run-scoring singles. The six-spot put up by the Tribe in the fifth was the most runs the team has scored in a single frame this season.
“I thought we ran the bases, went first to third, kept the line moving and that’s a good way to play,” Francona said. “We were aggressive on the bases, we did some good things. We didn’t chase out of the zone and we had some really good at-bats.”
The run support gave the Indians' pitching staff plenty of breathing room. Corey Kluber got off to a slow start in the first inning, walking two batters and giving up an RBI single to Nick Markakis, but the right-hander looked strong as he settled in for the next five frames, retiring 11 straight batters at one point.
“At times, it was good,” Kluber said of his mechanics that he’s been tweaking throughout the start of the season. “I mean, I think there were still instances where I could feel that it maybe slipped out a little bit, but the difference is that I was able to kind of reel things in and get back on track to where I wanted to be. I think that’s going to be the key.”
After giving up just two homers through his first four starts, Kluber matched that total in the seventh, allowing Brian McCann and Matt Joyce to hit back-to-back shots to start the inning. The right-hander's afternoon ended after the seventh, having allowed four runs on five hits with two walks, eight strikeouts and one hit batter.
“He fell behind, and he kind of pitched to the scoreboard, and they took advantage and hit the two solos,” Francona said. “But I thought that was way closer to the Klubes that we’ve seen, and [it's] really encouraging moving forward.”