Corey Kluber was dominant with eleven strikeouts and the Cleveland Indians had this one in hand early and often as the Tribe put up a five-spot in the fifth and cruised to a series sweep of the Twins with an 8-4 victory on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
Kluber was rolling from the very first inning, setting down the first six Twins in order with four strikeouts and two come-backers, while his teammates staked him to an early 1-0 lead. Abraham Almonte, who’s role in the outfield may soon be usurped by the return of Covelli “Coco” Crisp, doubled with two outs in the second to score Mike Napoli. A third inning bomb by Max Kepler evened the score at one until Carlos Santana returned volley with a home run of his own in the bottom of the fourth to give the Tribe a lead at 2-1 that they would not relinquish.
Roberto Perez, coming into the game with an anemic .148 average, opened the fifth with a home run to center field off of Twins starter Pat Dean and the Indians were off to the races. By the end of the fifth inning the Tribe had sent eleven batters to the plate, chased poor Pat Dean and scored four runs while still leaving the bases loaded against struggling reliever J.T. Chargois. Sacre bleu!
Kluber cruised through the Twins lineup and may have had a chance for a complete game until getting scuffed up in the top of the eighth when he allowed a leadoff single to #9 hitter Logan Shaffer followed by a booming homerun by the red-hot Brian Dozier. He rallied to strike out two of the next three hitters, setting a new season-high with eleven strikeouts, but his pitch count was up to 109 and Tito gave rookie Perci Garner the opportunity to make his MLB debut in the ninth while protecting a five run lead.
Garner, unfortunately, was not able to close the book and Bryan Shaw was brought on with two outs and the bases juiced to retire Dozier before the Twins could muster a proper rally. Due to baseball’s arcane save rules, Shaw actually picked up his first save of the year while retiring just one batter because the tying run was on deck, giving Shaw his first save of 2016. He’s now recorded a save in five consecutive seasons while never recording more than two in a season.
The sweep puts the Indians at 16-14 in August and 76-56 overall with just 30 games remaining to hold off both the Motown Tigers and the reigning champ Royals. After an off day tomorrow, the Indians will pick it back up on Friday night when they host the Miami Marlins.
Kluber, who went 5-0 in August with a 2.43 ERA and has won seven decisions in a row, may be making a strong push for his second Cy Young Award. Who are the other contenders?
+ Cole Hamels, Rangers – 14-4, 2.91 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, league-leading 65 walks allowed
+ Chris Sale, White Sox – 15-7, 3.14 ERA, 1.00 WHIP (which leads the league)
+ Justin Verlander, Tigers – 14-7, 3.33 ERA, 1.02 WHIP
+ Rick Porcello, Red Sox – 18-3, 3.26 ERA, 1.04 WHIP
In a field lacking a clearly dominant candidate, any number of pitchers can make a strong case in September for the award. Kluber, who stands at 14-8 with a 3.07 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, will have a September pennant race to make his case.