Bullpen unable to protect Kluber

Ace winless after rebounding from two-run first

Bullpen unable to protect Kluber

CLEVELAND -- After Corey Kluber finished off Detroit's Nick Castellanos with a strikeout to open the seventh inning on Saturday, stirring some rousing cheers from the Cleveland faithfil, Indians manager Terry Francona surveyed the upcoming hitters and saw an opportunistic scenario.

"As excited as you can be about facing that lineup, we thought we had it kind of set up," Francona said. "Things kind of unraveled."

Cleveland's bullpen, which has been a strength for the club under Francona's watch, collapsed against the Tigers and sent the Tribe to a discouraging 9-6 loss. After recovering from a shaky first inning, Kluber dominated Detroit's order into the seventh, but he walked away with a no-decision following his first double-digit strikeout showing of the season.

Setup man Marc Rzepczynski and Bryan Shaw combined to allow three runs after Kluber's exit. Then, after Cleveland's offense rallied to pull the game into a 5-5 tie in the eighth, Francona handed the ball to closer Cody Allen, who looked lost in an uncharacteristic four-run disaster.

"It was just one of those days," Allen said. "The game got a little quick on me out there, which is pretty inexcusable. I just didn't make adjustments. I kept missing the same spots."

Francona on pitching in loss

For Kluber, this marked a second strong performance that went for naught.

On Opening Day against the Astros, Kluber worked into the eighth inning, but Cleveland's offense came up empty in a 2-0 loss. This time around, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner outpitched Tigers ace David Price, piling up 10 strikeouts and holding Detroit to a pair of first-inning runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Kluber was in line for his first win of 2015 when he walked off the mound on Saturday, but the bullpen faltered in the final three innings. With the showing on Saturday (seven runs on seven hits with five walks in 2 2/3 innings), Cleveland's relief ERA on the young season ballooned to 5.79 from 1.59 in 14 innings.

"It's only a little bit into [the season]," Kluber said. "I don't think any of us have any wavering faith in them or whatnot. They've been too good for too long to read too much into a handful of games."

Rzepczynski gave up an infield single before walking Andrew Romine after entering in relief of Kluber.

"Walking the nine-hole hitter, that one really hurt," Francona said.

Shaw came in and later allowed three straight two-out RBI singles to Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

"The league knows Shaw now," Francona said. "So, they kind of hang out over the plate and hit the ball the other way. That's why we've been trying to work on being able to have [another pitch] to keep them off the stuff out there."

Allen just did not have it in the ninth, when he walked the first two batters and allowed three hits, including a two-run double to Yoenis Cespedes on an 0-2 pitch.

"He tried to elevate a fastball and it caught way too much of the plate," Francona said of Allen's pitch to Cespedes. "That kind of made a mess of the inning."

Allen shrugged off the bullpen's bad night.

"The season is still early," he said. "I don't think anybody is worried about it. I think everybody is going to settle in, they're going to do their jobs, we're going to compete and we're going to start pitching."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.