CLEVELAND – For one night, all was right in the city of Cleveland.
While both the Indians and Cavaliers have steep hills to climb on their pursuit of greatness, the collective sense of resiliency filled the buzzing sports town known as Believeland.
Edwin Encarnacion leveled a go-ahead two-run homer to give Corey Kluber and the Indians a 7-3 victory on Friday evening in front of 30,043 roaring fans at Progressive Field and the hundreds of thousands of feverish spectators joyously cheering on the Gateway Plaza.
Kluber perseveres for quality start
Five of Chicago’s first six batters reached base via single or walk in the third inning, including Melky Cabrera and Todd Frazier with a pair of RBI singles.
"There was some traffic, but it seemed like when runners got on, [Kluber] went to his breaking ball, his curveball really effectively,” said manager Terry Francona. “He made pitches when he had to. When he’s in there, we’re down or it’s close the whole way so there wasn’t any wiggle room for him.”
Bradley Zimmer recorded his first career assist and Kipnis made a diving play to his glove side to prevent matters from escalating any further.
“Yeah, obviously good defensive plays are helpful to get you out of an inning,” Kluber said. “I think that obviously throwing out a guy at home any time is going to save you a run, but the play by Kip, if he doesn’t make that play, they score another run.”
“It was a great throw,” said Francona. “One, it’s down where runners can’t advance and it had so much on it. I think the infield was a little slick, which probably helped. But it was a really good throw.”
The seesaw battle stayed true to form as Jose Abreu lifted a sacrifice fly to give his team the lead, 3-2.
“My fastball command wasn’t great tonight, but if you look back at it, they hit one ball hard the entire night,” Kluber said. “A couple of bloops, a couple of broken bats, groundballs. Those are kind of things you can’t control as a pitcher. But like I said, I’m just trying to keep the team in it.”
Kluber settled in shortly thereafter to retire six of the last seven hitters he faced en route to a final line of 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R/ER, 2 BB, 8 K (98 pitches, 68 strikes, 69.4%).
“I think that maybe we can use tonight as a starting point to continue to play that way,” Kluber said. “I think we’ve probably all come to the conclusion we haven’t played the way we wanted to. It’s not like we’ve taken ourselves out of anything. It’s not the worst thing in the world to get a reminder now and again that you go out and play the right way and good things happen."
Offense keeps pace, pulls ahead
The Indians drew first blood on Michael Brantley’s RBI single to plate Jason Kipnis (double) in the home half of the first.
One inning passed before the home nine returned to the scoring column on Bradley Zimmer’s seven-pitch, bases-loaded walk...
“That was a nice at-bat,” said Francona. “(Down) 0-2, to fight for a walk, which at the time is a huge run for us. I don’t know if it was the fifth inning, but playing tied is a heck of a lot better than being down.”
"I tried to get on something early," Zimmer said. "[Miguel Gonzalez] made a couple of good pitches and I fouled them off. I just had to battle and find a way. I think that is the best way to describe it - just find a way. It got us back in the ballgame and we kind of took the momentum from there."
Encarnacion put the dagger in Gonzalez’s outing with a go-ahead two-run blast to center field, his 11th of the campaign.
“That was nice for him and us,” said Francona. “To see him come up in that situation and, like you said, do what we got him here to do, it’s nice. I was happy for him.”
Newly activated Petricka surrenders crooked number
With a slim 4-3 lead, the Cleveland offense refused to let up with a trio of key insurance scores off Jake Petricka. Lonnie Chisenhall doubled in a run and Yan Gomes plated a pair on a run-scoring double of his own.
"I think everyone in the game pitching and then in the lineup contributed," Zimmer said. "Kluber did an awesome job of setting the tone and keeping us in it. And then Eddie has a big at-bat for us. I drew that walk that kind of got us going and then Eddie hits that home run. Like I said, everyone contributed, and it was a great win for us."
Andrew Miller and Cody Allen highlighted the high-leverage nature of the late innings with three scoreless frames and four strikeouts to boot.
Central Division update
The Red Sox beat the Tigers (29-31), 5-3 at Fenway Park.
The series continues on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET from Progressive Field.
RHP Josh Tomlin (3-7, 5.54) will go for three consecutive quality starts for the first time this season. The 32-year-old right-hander tossed 7.1 innings of three-run ball in a tough-luck loss vs. Kansas City on June 2.
LHP David Holmberg (0-0, 2.50) is in line for his 11th appearance (third start) despite throwing four or fewer frames in each of his last two outings. The former second round pick has a 16.7% home run to fly ball rate over his four-year big league tenure, 3.3% higher than Tomlin.