By Jordan Bastian and August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- Indians ace Corey Kluber overpowered the Twins in a complete game, the Tribe's offense continued their weekend tear, and Cleveland ran away with an 8-1 victory on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field. With the win, the Indians took two of three in the series.
"Oh, man. He established right from the first hitter of the game that he was going to strike one," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Kluber. "He probably got stronger towards the end. He just attacked the zone with everything, and it was one of the better performances we've seen. Just start to finish, he was solid."
The loss knocked the Twins (55-56) under the break-even mark for the first time since May 1. Minnesota, which is trying to remain in the chase for an American League Wild Card spot, has lost seven of its past eight games.
"It hasn't been very good in terms of closeness of games and some of those kind of things," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's been pretty lopsided."
Kluber did not allow a hit to the first 20 hitters he faced and, while he did not achieve history, he did finish his nine-inning three-hitter in 100 pitches. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner ended with 10 strikeouts and one walk in the win for the Indians (51-59), who received a two-run homer from Abraham Almonte and a four-hit showing from Chris Johnson.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Early outburst: For the third game in a row, Cleveland's lineup pounced on Minnesota's starter. Against Twins righty Phil Hughes, the Indians struck for one run in the first, two in the second and four in the third. Carlos Santana, Yan Gomes, Jose Ramirez and Almonte each delivered run-scoring hits during Hughes' three innings.
"If you're out there and you're seeing the way guys are teeing off on you, you'd think you would try to at least make them a little more uncomfortable," Molitor said. "I think we could probably improve on that."
The Full Almonte: One game after going 4-for-5 with three extra-base hits in his Indians debut, Almonte launched a two-run home run to center in the third inning to push Cleveland to a 7-0 lead. He became the first player to homer in each of his first two games with the Indians since 2006 (Kevin Kouzmanoff).
"It feels good," Almonte said. "I feel way more free than I was when I was in the big leagues earlier. I think that helps me a lot."
Well played, Mauer: Kluber breezed through the first 10 batters he faced before issuing a walk to Hicks in the fourth. The righty erased that baserunner with a double play and carried his flirtation with a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Veteran Joe Mauer ended Kluber's no-hit bid with a no-doubt single, sliced into left-center field with two outs in the seventh.
"I think you're aware of it," Kluber said of the no-hitter. "But I wasn't out there trying to pitch to not give up a hit. I was just trying to get guys out like usual."
Strong first impression: Making his first start as a member of the Indians, Johnson finished 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored in the win. Johnson, who started at first base, was acquired from the Braves in the Friday trade that shipped Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to Atlanta.
"We're doing a good job," Johnson said. "I don't think anybody in here is focused on what we've done in the past, what we were supposed to do here or any of that. I think we're all just coming in every day and having fun and just playing hard, trying to win as many games as possible."
"I haven't seen him pitch live since college. If he would've pitched like that, we maybe would've gotten to the College World Series. It would have been nice. He's a stud. It's fun to watch."-- Johnson, on Kluber, who was his teammate at Stetson University
"When you get an early lead like that, I don't want to say it makes it easy, but it's a lot less stressful to go out there and to just attack guys knowing you have that cushion." -- Kluber
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Twins starters Mike Pelfrey, Ervin Santana and Hughes combined to allow 22 runs on 29 hits in nine combined innings over the past three games in Cleveland. That trio totaled 208 pitches (122 strikes) in the trio of abbreviated outings. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: After an off-day for travel back home to Minnesota, the Twins begin a three-game series against Texas on Tuesday. Right-hander Kyle Gibson (8-9, 3.78 ERA) will attempt to right the ship, pitching on the heels of three consecutive games in which Twins starting pitchers were unable to make it out of the fourth inning. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.
Indians: Following a team off-day on Monday, right-hander Carlos Carrasco (11-8, 3.76 ERA) will start for the Tribe at 7:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game home set against the Yankees. Carrasco is coming off consecutive nine-inning performances in which he allowed no more than one run or two hits. He is the first Indians starter to achieve that feat since Sam McDowell in 1970.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.