Rays plate early runs off Kluber, but can't solve Tribe's bullpen in finale
By Troy Provost-Heron
ST. PETERSBURG -- After thwarting three consecutive no-hit bids in the late innings, the Rays' offense showed signs of life Thursday in their 5-4 loss to the Indians at Tropicana Field.
For the first time in the four-game series, the Rays grabbed a hit in their first trip through the order when Joey Butler delivered a one-out single in the opening frame off reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Evan Longoria and Grady Sizemore tacked on to make it three straight singles, the latter staking the Rays to an early 1-0 lead.
With Logan Forsythe up, the Rays pushed another run across as Longoria and Sizemore pulled off a double steal and Indians catcher Yan Gomes' throw to third was wide, allowing Longoria to trot home.
The early surge was similar to the last time the Rays faced Kluber on June 20. when Longoria blasted a three-run home run in the first inning en route to a 4-1 win.
"That first inning probably eased the mentality a little bit," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "It was a great job because you have to get to him early. Last time we faced him, we did the exact same thing, and then he flipped the switch."
Kluber flipped the switch once again in the finale, retiring 13 of the next 14 Rays batters he faced as the Indians turned a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 advantage by the fifth.
But just like in their last meeting, the Rays were able to strike one final time before Kluber exited. In the sixth, Kevin Kiermaier led off with a double and scored on a single by Sizemore.
From there, Forsythe followed with a single and Asdrubal Cabrera capped the rally with an RBI single to tie things up and get starter Matt Moore -- who returned from Tommy John surgery -- off the hook for the loss.
"I thought we did a good job of getting on [Kluber] early and adding on there late," Sizemore said. "We battled, but they came out on top."
Following the rally, though, Tampa Bay's bats settled into a place they grew accustomed to over the series. The last 12 batters recorded outs, 10 of them on strikeouts.
The Rays went down on strikes 19 times, setting a franchise record -- eclipsing the 17 set on June 8, 2014, vs. Seattle. Kluber's dominance was a major factor, as he recorded 14 whiffs for the fourth time in his career, but he was also facing a struggling offense that had just six hits over the previous three games before notching seven Thursday.
"We're pressing right now, but sometimes these guys are making really good pitches," Kiermaier said. "When you mix those two things, it's really tough out there."
Troy Provost-Heron is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.