Cleveland, OH — Corey Kluber
escaped three no-out jams with no damage and the Cleveland offense provided just enough support, as the Indians beat the Nationals 2-0 to win the three-game series.
After a leadoff single by Anthony Rendon
in the fourth, Ryan Zimmerman
hit a ball to newly-acquired Indians third baseman John McDonald
, who threw a double play ball past second baseman Jason Kipnis
into center. With runners on first and third following the error, Kluber struck out the next three hitters in order to keep the game scoreless.
"He was so good all day," said Indians manager Terry Francona
. "From pitch one, he was aggressive with his fastball. I don't think he even threw a changeup today. Even versus left-handers, he just was in attack mode.
Kluber (5-4, 3.58) worked his way out of another trap in the sixth, which Denard Span
led off with an infield single. Span advanced to second when first baseman Mark Reynolds
couldn't handle a throw from Kipnis. Rendon then singled to put runners on first and third with no outs again, the same situation as the fourth inning.
"We didn't help him out defensively and he pitched unbelievable," said Reynolds, referencing Cleveland's two errors on the day. "He got out of those jams and kept us in the game.”
Kluber proceeded to strike out Zimmerman with a good curveball before inducing a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
"I take it pitch by pitch," Kluber said. "I'm not thinking too far ahead. I'm not thinking if I can get a double play here or a strikeout there. Those things happen as a result of making good pitches."
In the seventh, the Nationals loaded the bases with zero outs and it felt as if Kluber’s luck might have finally run out. Instead, the next hitter lined out to Reynolds who doubled up the runner at first. Kluber then got a ground out to end the inning, preserving the shutout.
Kluber retired the side in order in the eighth to complete his pitching line. In all, he allowed no runs while scattering seven hits over eight innings of work. He struck out eight hitters, many coming at very opportune moments.
In his past two starts, Kluber has allowed just one run over 16 innings while lowering his ERA from 4.56 to 3.58.
Kluber’s solid start took away attention from Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg
, who was making his first start since May 31. While he walked four in just five innings of work, he showed flashes of his dominant self, allowing just one run on one hit. He struck out four.
The only hit Strasburg (3-6, 2.50) allowed was costly, as Carlos Santana
's RBI single with one out in the fourth gave Cleveland the only run needed to win the game.
The Tribe picked up their second run in the eighth with timely hitting and a little small ball. Michael Bourn
led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Aviles
. Kipnis followed with a sacrifice fly to right to provide an insurance run for Vinnie Pestano
in the ninth.
Pestano kept the drama locked down, working around a one-out walk while picking up his first save of the season.
Cleveland will now begin a three-games series against the Kansas City Royals, with game one being played at 7:05 p.m. on Monday. James Shields
(2-6, 2.79) will start for the Royals against an Indians starter to be determined.
Notes: Indians closer Chris Perez
allowed two hits while striking out one in a scoreless inning of work for the Lake County Captains. … Indians first baseman Nick Swisher
, in a 6-for-55 slump, didn't play because of a sore left shoulder. … Jason Kipnis has posted a .455 batting average, .538 on-base percentage, four stolen bases, and seven RBIs over his last nine games.