Norwalk Reflector: Kluber shines, offense breaks out in Tribe win at Detroit
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Kluber shines, offense breaks out in Tribe win at Detroit

By PAUL HOYNES • Updated Apr 9, 2019 at 5:50 PM

DETROIT — A few hours before the first pitch Tuesday afternoon, the Indians found out that right-hander Mike Clevinger wouldn’t be pitching for them again until at least late June because of a strained muscle in his right shoulder joint.

Depending on how you look at the Indians’ rotation, Clevinger may be the second- or third-best starter on the staff. Whatever the ranking, he was off to a great start — 12 scoreless innings with 22 strikeouts. Clevinger’s injury seemed to fit the tenor of the early season with the Tribe’s double-play combination of Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis already on the injured list.

While injury may be part of the tenor of the Tribe’s early season, so is winning. The Indians beat the Tigers, 8-2, at Comerica Park on Tuesday to extend their winning streak to five games and improve to 7-3 overall. The loss ended Detroit’s winning streak at five games.

The Indians came into the game as one of the weakest hitting teams in the big leagues with just four homers. They matched that total against Jordan Zimmerman and the Tiger bullpen as Leonys Martin, Brad Miller, Roberto Perez and Jake Bauers hit their first homers of the season.

Those homers helped Corey Kluber (1-2, 3.86) get through six innings to win his first game of the season. Kluber allowed two runs and struck out eight. He is 4-0 over the last two seasons against the Tigers and 12-7 in his career.

“It was nice to bounce right back,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “This is a big ballpark, but it didn't play that way today. The ball was flying. Kluber did a really good job of adding and subtracting, because a couple balls they did hit were to deep part of the field. He gives up one there after bloop and an error. I thought he did a really good job.”

After getting chased early in his last start on April 3 vs. the White Sox at home, Kluber put in extra work to tweak a mechanic in his delivery. 

“My last outing was so short I had time to sit there and dissect it,” Kluber said. “Pitching in a game, competing against a hitter and trying to get them out, I’m not worrying where my delivery is or hitting checkpoints. Whether good or bad, you just have to find ways to get guys out.”

Kluber is now 6-0 with a 1.05 ERA in his last six starts, averaging seven-plus innings each time against the Tigers dating back to 2017.

“I just thought he looked more like Kluber,” Francona said. “He stayed in his delivery, I thought his ball was moving more; had that late movement. He pitches himself into being Kluber. Today was a nice step for him. We weren't going to take him out when we did, but when we scored those extra runs we took him out and no one had to work too much.”

Meanwhile, Zimmerman (0-1, 2.50) has gotten off to a good start for the Tigers this season, but the Indians are poison to him. He’s 0-6 with a 10.68 ERA in eight career starts against the Tribe.

Martin started things early against his old teammate with a leadoff homer in the first. It came on the second pitch of the game. Brad Miller made it 3-1 with a two-run homer in the second. Perez started the fifth with a homer to left for a 4-1 lead as Zimmerman failed to make it out of the inning.

Bauers hit another leadoff homer in the sixth, lefty Blaine Hardy gave it up, to make it 6-2.

The Indians’ power display did not include Eric Stamets’ “Little League” homer in the seventh. After Miller doubled with one out, Stamets sent a single to center that snuck under the glove of center fielder Mikie Mahtook and rolled all the way to 420-foot mark in center field. Stamets scored, despite breaking stride going around second base.

Stamets was credited with a single and RBI, while Mahtook was charged with a three-base error. It was the second RBI of the game for Stamets, who failed to turn a double play in the first that led to Detroit’s first run.

“He made a couple plays and hit three balls on the nose,” Francona said of Stamets. “So, good for him. We value his defense so much. Even when hasn't been swinging the bat, we feel that's how good he is defensively. It was nice to see him put a sting into a couple balls.”

Miguel Cabrera, who used to haunt the Indians’ dreams, doubled home the Tigers’ second run in the fifth. Kluber, Dan Otero, Tyler Olson and Jon Edwards retired 15 of the last 16 Tigers to bat in the game.

Up next

Trevor Bauer (1-0, 0.64) will face Detroit’s Matthew Boyd (0-1, 3.18) at 1:10 p.m. Wednesday at Comerica Park. SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM will carry the game.

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