Timely hitting and masterful pitching was the recipe the Cleveland Indians needed for a 4-3 win on Wednesday night over the Kansas City Royals.
A four-hit night from Carlos Santana and three hits off the bat of Jose Ramirez paved way for Corey Kluber’s 18th win of the season, tying his previous career-high set during his 2014 AL Cy Young campaign. The Indians have now eliminated the Royals from playoff contention and lowered their magic number to five.
“It’s what we work for all off-season and spring training,” said Kluber. “We play games early on in the year to have this chance come September.”
Jason Kipnis added a pair of doubles and the bullpen trio consisting of Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen put the icing on the cake with 2.2 frames of late-inning relief.
Roberto Perez prevented Kansas City from threatening in the ninth inning by throwing out Terrance Gore at second base, the first caught stealing of his career (17 for 18 on steal attempts).
“It was right on the money,” Perez said. “To be able to throw him out, it was good for me. I got him.”
Kluber shakes rough inning
Four consecutive hits (all singles) strung together by the Royals offense equated to a two-run third inning off Kluber. Outside of the limited damage, the Indians ace dominated only allowing two additional hits and zero earned runs. His final line: 6.1 IP 6 H 2 R/ER 2 BB 9 K (102 pitches, 68 strikes, 67%).
“He’s the same guy every five days,” said manager Terry Francona. “I mean that as the biggest compliment you could give somebody.”
Kluber’s hottest stretch came in the fifth and sixth innings when he punched out five consecutive batters. Eight of the last nine Royals hitters who faced Kluber did not reach base.
Despite entering play with a .071 (1-14) lifetime batting average against Ian Kennedy, Santana proved to be one of the hottest hitters atop the Indians lineup with a season-high four hits including a double, run scored, and RBI.
Santana has now reached base safely in 21 straight games and is batting .450 with three runs batted in over the course of the current home stand.
Aside from Santana, Ramirez hustled his way around the bases for three doubles, a nine-pitch walk, one RBI, and one run scored.
“He’s shooting the ball all over the ballpark,” Francona said. “He’s making plays at third, that one ball that was to his right, it looked like his glove was turned sideways, but he caught it.”
The three two-baggers sets a new career high for the Dominican-born third baseman.
“I’m working hard and I’m resting well so that I can give my best every single day that I’m out there,” said Ramirez through a translator. “Thanks to God I’m doing well.”
Central Division update
Cleveland now moves 11.5 games ahead of Kansas City in a divisional race that is beginning to show its true colors.
With Detroit and Minnesota rained out of their Wednesday night action, the Indians will remain seven games apart from their second-place counterpart.
Cleveland and Kansas City wrap up their three-game series on Thursday evening at 7:10 PM from Progressive Field.
Slated to pitch will be RHP Mike Clevinger (2-2, 4.76) and LHP Jason Vargas (0-0, 3.00).
Clevinger is scheduled to make the ninth start of his young career, the first of which comes against the Royals. The 25-year-old rookie has a 2-1 record and 3.52 earned run average in four home starts (seven appearances) this year.
In his only other start of 2016, Vargas hurled three innings allowing one run and stringed together seven consecutive outs. The southpaw’s last major league outing came on July 21, 2015 before suffering season-ending Tommy John surgery. His 363-day recovery is the fastest by a major league pitcher since Gavin Floyd in 2014.null