CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber wasn’t at his best Monday night at Progressive Field. Then again, neither were his infielders.
A couple of botched plays in the second inning led to an early advantage for the Pirates, who opened a three-game interleague series with a 7-0 victory in front of 24,925 fans.
The game was called and made official after the third rain delay of the night prior to the seventh inning, but Kluber and the Indians’ defense rained on the parade well before that.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis bobbled a grounder on a double-play ball that would have ended the second without a run crossing the plate, and first baseman Yonder Alonso — with help from third baseman Jose Ramirez’s interference — followed by dropping a pop up.
What usually happens after you give the opposition extra outs did, as Josh Harrison hit a three-run home run off Kluber on an 0-2 pitch. The Indians’ ace, who allowed another RBI single to give Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead, was charged with four unearned runs.
“Any time you give a team five outs, you know, extra outs, we talk about that all the time,” manager Terry Francona said. “And (Kluber) damn near got out of it. He got ahead 0-2 then he hung a breaking ball. Some nights when you need a little help, you don’t get it. That inning looked like it was going to be a harmless inning, then all of a sudden we can’t get the third out.”
“It’s part of the game,” Kluber said of the defensive miscues. “You expect yourself to go out there and still make pitches. Those two plays had nothing to do with me hanging an 0-2 breaking ball that cost us three runs, and then I wasn’t able to get the last (out) for awhile and they scored another one.”
Kluber was making his first start since receiving a lubricant injection to his right knee that shut him down for a week and caused him to miss appearing in the All-Star Game. He was pitching for the first time since July 12.
“(The knee) wasn’t an issue at all,” Kluber said. “I just gotta get my delivery to the point where I can make good pitches consistently. My knee was fine. I’ve been telling you guys for a little bit I feel out of whack. I’ve gotta figure out what to do to kind of rein it back in and get to where I want to be.
“I don’t think the knee is anything to worry about.”
Francona put the blame on Kluber’s location.
“I thought his fastball command was not where it usually is,” Francona said of Kluber, who allowed seven runs on nine hits and struck out two over only four innings. “That is probably the worry going in. He’s such a creature of habit, and his routine was different this time. He’ll be fine.”
The right-hander’s ERA stood at a sparkling 1.99 on June 10, but Kluber’s hit a rough patch over his last seven starts, posting a 5.21 ERA and allowing 40 hits, eight homers and eight walks in 38 innings.
He’s been even worse over his last five outings, surrendering 18 earned runs on 35 hits (six homers) and nine walks in 26 innings.
Pittsburgh, which extended its winning streak to 10 games, got an impressive outing from starting pitcher Trevor Williams, who was facing Cleveland for the first time.
The 26-year-old right-hander tossed six shutout innings and allowed only four hits.
The Indians got their first two hits from Melky Cabrera in the second and in the fifth from Kipnis, who reached on a dribbler that traveled halfway down the first base line.
Of Cleveland’s four hits, two came just before the game was called, with the Indians loading the bases with one out in the sixth on a single from Michael Brantley, a walk to Ramirez and a base hit from Yandy Diaz.
Yonder Alonso struck out and Cabrera grounded out to end the threat.
The start of the game was delayed 55 minutes, then another 27 minutes with two outs in the bottom of the third inning. The final delay before the game was called lasted an hour and 21 minutes.
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