Indians 7, Reds 1: Commander Corey, long balls, lead Wahoos to fourth straight W

Corey KluberI am running out of superlatives to describe the Tribe’s Corey Kluber. So this is what it’s like to have a real ace? The Indians haven’t seen anything like this since Cliff Lee’s 2008 Cy Young season. But even then, I don’t think we truly appreciated what we were watching. Lee was dominating with unbelievable command, but the Indians stumbled out of the gate and never were close to being a playoff team. CC Sabathia (Michael Brantley) and Casey Blake (Carlos Santana) were was sold off in July and another rebuild was about to begin. Kluber on the other hand, is driving the bus for a team suddenly surging, just two and a half games back of Toronto for the second AL Wild Card spot. He was money once again in the Tribe’s 7-1 series opening win against the Cincinnati Reds.

Watching Kluber work never gets old. He is so in control, so composed. Nothing seems to phase him on the mound—not even a Ryan Raburn spiked throw. The high level of dominance continued Monday night against a team that had not seen him yet this season. The Reds are a banged up and struggling bunch, yet they entered last night with the same record as the Indians. By the time the ninth inning rolled around, Reds manager Bryan Price lamented the blown chances his team received, thanks to some early shoddy Indians defense.

“What was disappointing and unacceptable tonight was the fact that we didn’t have our head in the game at all,” said Price. “Especially those first five innings. We had two guys that forgot how many outs there were, we had a pitcher that didn’t cover first base on a ground ball to the right side. We had five baserunners in the first three innings. That’s just not the way we play. We haven’t played that way all year. That lack of fight and lethargy, that’s just unacceptable type of play right there.”

You aren’t going to get many opportunities to get to Kluber and when you get them, you better take advantage. The Reds didn’t. Tribe shortstop Jose Ramirez made two fielding blunders in third which gave Cincinnati two extra outs, to work with, but Corey got cleanup hitter Devin Mesoraco to pop out and Brayan Pena to ground out to end the threat. That was their best chance to get to Kluber while the game was still in doubt. He wasn’t even close to his best, yet the right-hander held the Reds scoreless into the eighth.

The offense provided him with plenty of cushion. Facing All-Star Alfredo Simon, an average AL pitcher who changed leagues and suddenly has become effective, the Tribe went right to work. Kluber was staked to a 1-0 lead in the first. It was the old “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in” routine. Jason Kipnis led off with a double and was moved over to third by Mike Aviles, who now leads the AL with nine sacrifice bunts. Michael Brantley’s ground ball scored Kipnis. The scored stayed tied until the fourth.

Brantley and Carlos Santana started the frame with back to back singles, which brought Lonnie Chisenhall to the plate. After a red-hot June, Lonnie slowed down in July, but looks to be back on track now that the calendar has turned to August. He smoked a Simon pitched 411 feet to deep center for a three-run bomb. It was a no-doubter right that Chiz admired. An inning later, the bats continued to go.

Ramirez got thing started with a leadoff single and then stole second. Kipnis followed with a walk. Aviles once again moved both runners up, this time with a ground ball. Then it was that man again Brantley who singled the other way to stretch the lead to 5-0. A five-run lead with Kluber on the mound is essentially insurmountable these days.

“We scored,” manager Terry Francona said, “and he started really attacking the second time through the order and really became efficient and did exactly what you’re supposed to do with a lead.”

Corey came out for the eighth but gave up two singles sandwiched around a Todd Frazier strikeout. Francona emerged from the dugout and lifted his horse after 110 pitches. The crowd rose as one with a standing ovation. Kluber’s 17-inning scoreless streak would end as Nick Hagadone entered and gave up an RBI double to Pena. John Axford relieved the lefty and got the last two outs to kill any comeback attempt.

“He’s (Kluber) human after all,” said Axford, who got the final five outs for his first save since May. “We didn’t get to quite kick back and relax (in the bullpen) the entire time today, but we’ll take seven-plus every time.”

Yan Gomes added to the party with a two-run bomb in the eighth, his 15th of the season. Nobody outside of Cleveland is talking about him, but quietly The Yanimal is having perhaps the best season of any AL catcher. I will sign up for .283/.325/.475 with 15 and 48 all day long when you add in his exceptional defense behind the plate. Once again, I would like to thank the geniuses in the Toronto front office for handing Yan and Aviles over to the Indians for a reliever that they DFA’d last week.

Kluber knows this team has to get more consistent and stay hot if they are going to make a return to October.

“That’s what we need to do now,” Kluber said. “For most of the season, it’s been, play good, then we’ll falter a little bit, then we’ll play good, then we’ll falter. We can’t really afford to do that anymore.”

The Wahoos now go for their fifth straight with Josh Tomlin (5-7, 4.47 ERA) on the mound. It won’t be easy as they have to face Cincinnati’s best in All-Star Johnny Cueto, who enters the game with a sparkling 2.05 ERA.

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(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

  • boomhauertjs

    Thought Asdrubal was back in the 3rd inning.

  • nj0

    Kluber’s xFIP is at 2.74. That’s the best since ’02 for an Indians starting pitcher. Second on the list is Masterson’s 2013 at 3.37. Klubot’s 2.55 ERA is second only to Lee’s CY ’08 at 2.54.

    This does seem like the first time in a long time (probably Lee) where you can pencil in a win every fifth day. And all for Jake Westbrook! (Who was in turn an acquired for old David Justice.)

  • mgbode

    Glad that bats showed up last night. The trouble I still have believing that we can actually win a wild card spot is that I keep seeing Tomlin and McAllister’s name pop up. So, when Kluber has his turn on the mound, it not only is awesome that he’s pitching so well, but it is desperately needed.

  • Harv 21

    Right now Gomes’s bat looks ridiculously quick for a catcher in August – he’s swinging like he could pull a bullet. He and Brantley (obviously) are reacting exactly the way you can only hope a young baseball player would to getting his first big pile of money: with confidence but still aggressively honing his craft.

    Poor Toronto. If the Tribe gave away a cornerstone franchise piece like this simply due to faulty player analysis we’d be justifiably going nuts.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Klubot is a stud lock him up now!

  • nj0

    What I love about Gomes is that he’s sort of the anti cliched sabermetric type – he doesn’t walk all that much; he is just really good at hitting baseballs hard. It’s a reminder that there are a lot of ways to play the game well.

    And all for Esmil Rogers. Even at the time, that trade seemed like highway robbery. Bullpen arms are cheap and inconsistent year-to-year. If that trade would have been for Aviles or Gomes straight up, it would have been a win. But both? Toronto’s front office is supposed to have a good rep too

  • nj0

    He’s ours until 2018. Considering how quickly pitchers can fall off the table (I’m looking at you Verlander), I’m okay with not locking him up.

  • mgbode

    and, we are really getting a treat in this series with 2 of the best young catchers in MLB. Mesoraco has been phenomenal this season and is a big reason to even watch the Reds (along with Hamilton’s wheels). of course, he doesn’t have Yan’s gun (as we saw last night taking 2 bags), but he has a decent arm.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Verlander has been in the league awhile and I wish the Indians had more starters who “fell off” like he supposedly has!

  • Steve

    No mention of Bourn close to coming back? I’m actually pretty excited to see him at this point. No more Dickerson/Aviles in LF and no more Aviles at #2 in the lineup.

  • nj0

    Verlander is 31. Kluber will be 31 in 2017.

    There’s worse things than locking him up now. I wouldn’t complain. But even if we do, it’s most likely going to be one of those buy out his arb years and get one or two more years at something of a discount.

  • nj0

    It’ll be fun to watch Bourn for a week or two.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I had to look Verlander up…been in majors since 2005…man that’s a lot of innings to be so good for so long. Like I said, I wish the Indians had a starter fall off like him.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/justin-verlander-tosses-kate-upton-baseball-stands-game-article-1.1891934

    I get the point on Klubes, I didn’t realize he was 31. 2018 is long enough to see whether this year was a fluke or not. No need to start another Masterson-like saga.

  • Steve

    I’ll take it. Anything to not see Mike Aviles, LF, batting second.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    When they get him back it’ll be like a trade deadline deal right? My impression of Tribe speak!

  • nj0

    He’s 28 now. Just seems like we get burned on those “lock him up” deals. But then it seems like we get burned on every deal.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well 28 and this is his breakout season so either way being under control until 2018 I say lets see what Klubot does next season. Right now he’s a Terminator on the bump!

  • Tairy Greene

    is aviles really that much worse than bourn? considering the money bourn is making, he should be putting up much better numbers and doing so consistently. he has been a major disappointment 2 years in.

  • Tairy Greene

    that kind of ass-talking from the FO makes me shake my head

  • woofersus

    Sometimes yes, but those “lock him up” deals are also part of what led to the 90’s era of dominance for the Indians. We actually saw an active avoidance of long term salary commitments early in the Shapiro era and look how that worked out. I know we’re scarred by the Hafner contract, but he was already 31 when we gave him that deal.

  • Steve

    Still solid defense in CF vs meh in a corner. And Aviles currently has a 72 OPS+. I don’t have high hopes for Bourn, but I bet he can beat that.