Record-setting day ends in blown save, Tribe loss
Kluber fans seven straight, 13 total; Kottaras homers in first two at-bats
CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber was better than he's ever been, but John Axford couldn't slam the door.
Kluber set a team record with seven straight strikeouts from the third to fifth innings and established a new career high by punching out 13, but he checked out before the ninth, having thrown 110 pitches.
The Indians' closer blew his second save of the season and second against the White Sox, giving up a three-run homer to Dayan Viciedo in the ninth inning, as Chicago won, 4-3, on Sunday at Progressive Field.
Axford wasn't aggressive, and before he knew it, the White Sox had two runners on and Viciedo standing in the box.
"Two walks, falling behind guys didn't work out in that sense," Axford said. "Two guys were on without even me really challenging them. It wasn't until the guy I challenged, who put the ball in play, that things didn't go well."
Axford walked Gordon Beckham to lead off the ninth on four pitches, struck out Major League home run-leader Jose Abreu, then issued a free pass to Adam Dunn on a full count, bringing Viciedo to the plate.
Facing the White Sox on April 13, Axford gave up a ninth-inning homer to Alexei Ramirez, his first blown save of the season.
With one big swing, Viciedo snatched a series sweep from the Tribe, as White Sox closer Matt Lindstrom came on to record his fourth save of the season.
"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit, a good pitch to make contact with," Viciedo said. "... I think [Axford] made a mistake, and I made him pay for it. I was glad I was able to do that."
Axford leads the American League with nine saves, and with Minnesota coming to town for four games, he needs to move on from Sunday quickly.
"When you have a hiccup, sometimes you lose a game," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Axford. "You certainly want to adjust and get better, but you also have to have a bit of amnesia, come back tomorrow and get a save."
Clearly disappointed, Axford was very quiet after the game, maintaining the perspective Francona needs from a closer.
"I'll chew on it tonight, think about [it], maybe go to some video later, but tomorrow, it's a new day and I'll be back and ready to go like today didn't even happen," Axford said.
The worst part of Axford's blown save was making waste of Kluber's excellent eight innings of work.
"Klubes was so good today, just pitched his heart out," Francona said. "That's about as good as you can pitch."
Working with catcher George Kottaras, who did big things of his own for the first time, Kluber quickly got into a rhythm and coasted through eight innings.
"For the most part, I was just pounding the strike zone and working ahead of guys, keeping the pressure on them," Kluber said.
Kluber gave up a solo homer to Abreu in the first -- his 12th -- then allowed just two more hits and two walks in eight innings, throwing 70 of his 110 pitches for strikes.
"He did everything today," Francona said. "He's so aggressive with the bigger hitters in their lineup. He came in hard, kind of stood them up, opened up the plate for everything else."
Kottaras, called up Saturday when Indians everyday backstop Yan Gomes was put on the paternity list, homered in his first two at-bats. In doing so, Kottaras became the first player in club history to go deep in his first two plate appearances.
"I wasn't trying to do it, but it was a good feeling," Kottaras said.
The Indians stranded 12 runners Sunday, but no one was on base for Kottaras when he hit either of his home runs. Things could have gone much differently for the Tribe, who left two stranded in the second, third, fourth and fifth.
"It seemed like we had multiple chances, but they all came with two outs," Francona said. "Five walks and a hit batsmen … we did have opportunities, but we couldn't spread it out."
Daniel Webb threw an inning of scoreless relief to pick up the win for Chicago before Lindstrom sealed the game.