CLEVELAND — Indians hitters continued to struggle Wednesday afternoon in the series finale against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field.
This time they didn’t have a dominating effort from the sterling rotation to save the day.
With ace Corey Kluber off his game and the offense still stuck in low gear, the result was a predictable one, as Cleveland lost 8-3 to split the two-game series against its Central Division rival.
Kluber was off the mark from the start, allowing the first six batters to reach base — three on singles, two on walks and one on an error. The White Sox scored three times in the first inning and never trailed.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner lasted only 3 1/3 innings, allowing six runs (four earned) on eight hits and four walks — one of which forced in a run in the first.
“He never found a comfort zone,” manager Terry Francona said of Kluber, who took a perfect game into the sixth inning during his season debut last Thursday in Minnesota. “He scattered a lot of his fastballs, put him in some tough counts. The hope is that he’ll find it. One, because you want him to find it and give us a chance to win and, two, to not go through our entire bullpen. So at least he got far enough where you don’t have to make a roster move, things like that.
“You could tell he was fighting it, but he has the ability to find it. We’ve seen him do that time and time again.”
It was a surprising sight against a White Sox team Kluber has all but owned during his career. He entered the day with a 13-4 record and 2.80 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) after going 4-0 against Chicago last year while allowing only three runs over 28 innings.
“I really never had a good feel for the ball, for my delivery and stuff and I wasn’t able to find the right adjustment to try and get through,” Kluber said. “I don’t think it was much out of the usual the way teams attack me, I think I just didn’t do a good job of making good pitches — too many balls either over the plate or kind of non-competitive, where they just kind of spit on them. There was not enough good pitches.
“It’s different every time. Sometimes when things don’t go well you feel like you went out there with great stuff and they hit it and sometimes you feel like you didn’t have a good feel for things. But ultimately it comes down to going out there and competing and trying to figure out a way to get outs and go as deep as you can, and unfortunately today wasn’t one of those days.”
First baseman Jose Abreu is one Chicago hitter who hasn’t had a tough time against Kluber — .320 (16-for-50), five home runs and 12 RBIs — and continued to hurt the right-hander.
The Indians were still within striking distance, down 4-1, when Abreu connected on a two-run double in the fourth that sent Kluber to the showers.
“Good hitters like him, you leave the ball middle in, things aren’t going to work very well for you,” Kluber said.
The Indians scored their first run and got two hits in the opening inning off left-hander Carlos Rodon. They didn’t threaten again until managing three hits in the ninth — one of them a two-run homer from Hanley Ramirez.
Cleveland hitters, who struck out 13 times apiece in the season-opening, three-game series in Minnesota, matched the count again in the loss.
“I know we aren’t hitting well right now, but it’s a long season,” said first baseman Carlos Santana, who had two hits to raise his average to .471 (8-for-17). “We’re fighting. Right now, we have to rely on younger players and we’re fighting. We’re fighting.”
The second home date of the season drew only 10,689 fans, accounting for the smallest crowd since April 10 (10,078).
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