By August Fagerstrom and Alejandro Zúñiga
CLEVELAND -- The Mariners quickly jumped on Corey Kluber, who didn't have his typical command, putting up two runs in the first two innings en route to a 3-2 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field on Tuesday night.
Roenis Elias held the Indians to just one earned run over six innings of work, striking out three and walking two while allowing five hits. He retired eight of the last nine batters he faced, and has now worked into the sixth inning in all nine starts this season.
The Mariners though got a tough break when they would lose slugger Nelson Cruz to back spasms in the fifth inning.
Yan Gomes was the hitting star on the night for the Indians as he would hit his first two homers of the season to account for the only runs scored for Cleveland.
Kluber issued three walks for the first time since Aug. 21 of last season, after walking just three batters combined in his previous five starts. He allowed just two earned runs on seven hits over seven innings of work, striking out four, but the Indians continued a season-long trend of giving Kluber little-to-no run support. Kluber entered the game averaging just 2.3 runs of support per game, the third-lowest figure in the Majors.
"I don't think you can let it get frustrating," Kluber said. "If you start feeling sorry for yourself or something like that, then that takes your focus away from what it needs to be on, and that's trying to get guys out. I think everybody is going to go through times when they don't get run support. I think if you start to worry about that, that probably gets in the way of pitching and makes pitching harder."
The win marked the first time the Mariners won a series opener since a May 25 victory against Tampa Bay. The loss marked the fourth time in the last week that the Indians were one game away from reaching .500 for the first time since April 10, only to lose and drop back to two games under.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Progress at Progressive:Robinson Cano recorded his first extra-base hit since May 30 in the first inning when he drove the first pitch he saw from Kluber to the left-center field wall for an RBI double. Austin Jackson, who had reached on a would-be double play that shortstop Mike Aviles bobbled, scored from first base as the Mariners' struggling offense struck first. The Mariners added a crucial insurance run in the eighth inning when Seth Smith singled home Dustin Ackley.
"Tonight was luck that I was able to hit it where there wasn't nobody," Cano said. "Well, I wish I can continue getting that luck more often."
Gomer gopher ball: Gomes, playing in his 11th game back from the disabled list after suffering a sprained knee ligament in the sixth game of the season, slugged his first home run since Sept. 24, 2014 on the first pitch he saw from Elias in the second inning, tying the score at 1-1. The ball barely cleared the wall in left-center field, and was projected by Statcast™ to land 410 feet away with an 104 mph exit velocity. Gomes added his second homer of the season and game to lead off the ninth inning, hitting it to nearly the exact same spot in left-center field.
"We've talked about it all along, when the bat comes, it's going to be nice for us," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And he's worked so darn hard at it. He just grinds away. Those were good swings."
Cruz out: The Mariners' struggling offense took a hit when Cruz left the middle of a fifth-inning at-bat after suffering back spasms. Cruz appeared to hurt himself while fouling off a 2-2 offering from Kluber. The slugger, who at that point was 0-for-2 with a strikeout, grimaced and exited the game alongside Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. He immediately followed trainers into the clubhouse.
"Was told he's OK," McClendon said. "Had some tightness in his back. Did some treatments on it, and he feels much better, loosened up." More >
Smith saves:Carson Smith recorded his second save in as many opportunities, but the rookie looked shaky after being handed a two-run lead in the ninth inning. The right-hander allowed a leadoff homer to Gomes on a hanging slider, then surrendered a one-out single before retiring David Murphy and Jason Kipnis to end the game. Smith, who is part of what may become a closer platoon while Fernando Rodney irons out mechanical issues, still boasts a 1.38 ERA.
"I just wanted to make sure he was going to execute the type of pitches that you need to execute to make sure the ball stays in the ballpark," McClendon said of his visit to the mound before Kipnis' at-bat.
"He's been swinging it good for the last, probably, five, six, seven games. You can tell he's starting to look a little more comfortable at the plate, which is obviously understandable, when he first came back, having so much missed time. Yeah, he's starting to look like himself up there at the plate now." -- Kluber, on Gomes
"I didn't see him step on [home] because I fainted. With all the things that we've kicked ourselves with, that's the last thing we need -- a double off the left-center field wall and Austin not to score. He just misread it a little bit. He said he had it all the way. I said, 'Well, you did.' But it's a little bit too close for comfort." -- McClendon on Jackson not sliding into home when he scored in the first inning
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
A single by Kipnis extended his home hitting streak to 19 games, which is tied for the longest by an Indians player at Progressive Field with Michael Brantley, who racked up 19 fro April 20-May 30, 2014.
The Mariners set a new club record by scoring three or fewer runs for the 13th straight game.
Brantley led off the eighth inning by attempting a drag bunt down the first-base line, fielded by pitcher Charlie Furbush. Furbush made a glove flip to first baseman Logan Morrison, and Brantley was called out in a bang-bang play. After a two-minute and 58 second review, the call on the field stood.
Mariners:Taijuan Walker (2-6, 5.80 ERA) will start for Seattle looking to build off consecutive eight-inning performances, including a start against Cleveland in which the righty didn't allow a run or walk. First pitch at Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET/4:10 p.m. PT.
Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (5-2, 2.94 ERA) takes the mound for the Tribe, looking to extend his streak of pitching into the seventh inning to a career-high sixth consecutive game. One of those starts came against the Mariners, on May 29, when Bauer struck out 10 over seven innings.
August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.