By Jordan Bastian and August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- The Blue Jays capitalized on an off night from ace Corey Kluber and an ill-timed error by Cleveland, scoring six unearned runs in the sixth inning to run away with an 11-4 win over the Indians on Saturday at Progressive Field.
"[Sanchez] was throwing strikes early and then expanding," Bautista said. "Some guys were able to walk and get into good hitting counts even though he'd get ahead early. We just put a good sequence of at-bats together and it came to be a few runs."
Kluber (0-4) is still searching for his first win of the season in his American League Cy Young Award follow-up campaign. The right-hander allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits in five-plus innings, boosting his ERA to 7.27 over his past three starts. Kluber struck out three and walked two in the loss.
"I thought early, he was fighting his fastball command, especially to his arm side," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Kluber. "So, he started out throwing a lot of cutters. Once they kind of got a bead on that, he never was able really to command his fastball like he can or will."
The Indians scored only two runs off Sanchez, even though they had a dozen baserunners against the righty. Cleveland's only breakthroughs against Sanchez came in the form of a run-scoring groundout from Carlos Santana in the first inning and an RBI single by Michael Brantley in the third.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kluber slips in fifth: Kluber allowed two runs through the first four innings, but managed to avoid any serious damage. In the fifth, he found himself in a quick jam after giving up a leadoff single to Ezequiel Carrera and walking Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson to load the bases. Bautista made Kluber pay, delivering a two-run single to center that pushed the Indians behind, 4-2. Kluber then induced consecutive groundouts (one for a double play) to escape the inning. More >
"I think the biggest thing is probably just needing to sequence a little better," Kluber said. "I'm not doing that good of a job of keeping guys honest. For the most part, guys are kind of hanging out over the plate and when they're doing that, you kind of eliminate one half of the plate. So, when you do make a mistake, it's kind of magnified."
Error opens floodgates: With runners on second and third base and one out in the sixth, pinch-hitter Danny Valencia chopped a pitch from Tribe reliever Anthony Swarzak to third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. The third baseman gloved the grounder and threw home in an effort to nab Pillar trying to score. The throw was in the dirt, allowing the runner to score. What followed was a chaotic, six-run meltdown for Cleveland.
"That's hard," Francona said of Chisenhall's error. "It's low and you've got a guy that's trying to put a tag on a bang-bang play. … That was a huge play. We had a chance to get out of that inning with nothing, as opposed to six."
Piling on: The Blue Jays made sure to capitalize on Chisenhall's errant throw. Leadoff man Travis, who returned to the lineup after sitting on Friday with a collarbone injury, walked to reach base for the third time in the contest. The next three batters all reached and eventually came around to score. Donaldson reached on a fielder's choice, Bautista doubled to center field and Edwin Encarnacion chased Swarzak with a single up the middle. Bryan Shaw came on and wasn't able to stop the bleeding either, giving up hits to consecutive batters before finally recording the third out. The Blue Jays sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning.
"They had us where they wanted us right there," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Turned out we ended up capitalizing and having a big inning with all the lefties coming up … Right there, the game's still right there. It was a two-run game at the time and we opened it up right there to give us some breathing room. You're not going to do that without good at-bats. If you're too overaggressive, that's not going to happen."
Walking the tightrope: Sanchez's problem has been his control this season. Gibbons said before the first game of the series that the team's problem was throwing strikes. Sanchez wasn't too encouraging in that regard, issuing six free passes in 5 2/3 innings of work, but was able to avoid the big inning. A strikeout in the third ended the inning after a walk put two men on. A groundout did the same in the fifth. He was bailed out by reliever Liam Hendriks' strikeout of Jason Kipnis after Sanchez walked consecutive batters to load the bases in the sixth. More >
"He got a lot of ground balls today, I'm not sure how many, but that's what he is. When guys are on base, he's able to get out of some innings like that. These last few starts, he's been pretty effective but he's walked a lot of guys too. Over time, that's not going to work, so he's got to get in the zone better. It's not like he's not trying to do it, it's one of those things that sometimes it just deserts you." -- Gibbons, on Sanchez's outing on Saturday
In the ninth inning, Pillar hit a pitch to Chisenhall, who threw high to Santana at first base. The relay forced the first baseman to jump for the ball before landing on the bag, and Pillar was initially ruled safe on the play. That initially resulted in what would have been a second error for the third baseman. After a managerial review by the Indians, though, the call was overturned and Pillar was deemed out.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: The Blue Jays wrap up their 10-game road trip before heading back home to face the Yankees when they face the Indians at 1:10 p.m. ET in the series finale. Right-hander Drew Hutchison (2-0, 6.67 ERA) looks to bounce back after a shortened four-inning start against Boston at Fenway on April 28, in which he allowed six earned runs on nine hits, walking five and failing to strike out a single batter.
Indians: Still feeling the after effects of a bout with food poisoning, righty Trevor Bauer logged six gutsy innings in a no-decision against the Royals on Tuesday. He allowed three runs on seven hits and left in line for a win before the Tribe's bullpen surrendered the lead. On Sunday, Bauer (2-0, 1.80 ERA) will face the Blue Jays in the finale of a four-game series.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.