Kluber blanks Tigers as 4th strong with Tribe

Kluber blanks Tigers as 4th strong with Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Indians ace Corey Kluber turned in a vintage performance on Wednesday night, creating a wave of groundball outs in a complete game and sidestepping a handful of jams en route to a 4-0 victory over the Tigers at Progressive Field.

"He was throwing a ton of strikes," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Kluber, who recorded his second career shutout. "He pitched in. He used his breaking ball. It was really fun to watch. And we've seen, when he gets going and he gets in that rhythm and routine, what he can do every fifth day. So, that's exciting."

The win was Cleveland's fifth in a row over its division rival from Detroit this season.

Kluber's five-hit shutout

The Indians used a four-run showing in the fourth inning against Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez to back Kluber's gem. Michael Brantley, Mike Napoli and Yan Gomes contributed successive RBI hits in that frame against Sanchez (3-3), who struck out seven and allowed four hits in a seven-inning performance.

Sanchez strikes out seven

Anibal doing the work, needs results to follow

Over his nine innings, Kluber (2-3) generated 16 outs via grounders, including a pair of double plays. The right-hander struck out seven and walked two in the effort, which marked his second win over Detroit this year. In 17 innings against the Tigers on the season, Kluber has 17 strikeouts, two walks and only one run relinquished.

"He's got plus stuff, and he located it tonight," Justin Upton said. "We didn't hit him." 

Kluber battles early, escapes to go distance

Escape, Act I: During a stretch of nine consecutive balls, Kluber issued consecutive walks to load the bases with one out in the second inning. Unfazed, Kluber got Jose Iglesias to chop a pitch to first baseman Napoli, who fired it to catcher Gomes for a forceout at the plate. Cleveland's ace then struck out Ian Kinsler to end the inning.

Napoli throws home for forceout

"I totally lost it," Kluber said of his command. "Really, none of the pitches were even close. I tried to just step back, take a deep breath and get back to pitch-by-pitch, getting one guy out at a time. The idea is to minimize damage."

Escape, Act II: When Upton opened the fourth with a double off the center-field wall, and Nick Castellanos followed with a single to put runners on the corners, Detroit appeared on the cusp of a rally. Once again, Kluber stopped the Tigers in their tracks. First, he induced a grounder to third baseman Juan Uribe, who held Upton at third before turning a 5-4-3 double play. Then, Kluber struck out Anthony Gose to dodge any damage.

Uribe starts the double play

"That was awesome," Gomes said of Uribe's effort. "It might go [overlooked], what he did, because all it was, was he just checked [Upton] and made him stop. As soon as he made him stop, he was able to turn the double play, and you saw Upton kind of just hesitate. That's exactly what you want to get out of that."

Four in the fourth: The Indians went 0-for-9 against Sanchez into the fourth inning, but the pitcher's command woes caught up with him. He issued a leadoff walk to Carlos Santana and later hit Francisco Lindor with a one-out pitch to set the stage for a four-run push. Brantley delivered an RBI single, and then Napoli and Gomes came through with consecutive run-scoring doubles. Within that outburst, Brantley also scored from third on a wild pitch.

Lindor hurt after hit-by-pitch

"Those three at-bats in a row, the three hits that inning, were huge," Kluber said. "The first two guys that got on, they set the table. To string those three hits together, to keep building on it, was huge."

He who hesitates: The Tigers left more than their fair share of runners on base in the early innings, but Upton might have helped strand himself with a pair of hesitations after his leadoff double in the fourth. He took a few steps back toward second base on Castellanos' liner into right field, costing him any chance to round third on the single. Two pitches later, Upton declined to break for home and try to force a throw on McCann's double-play grounder to third.

Upton's double to center

"I just got caught being too cautious, and it cost us a run," Upton said. "You can't be cautious in that situation. We have to try to get on the board. I just didn't make the right read."

Said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus: "We generally want him to go with no outs and avoid the double play. At worst, we're at first and second with one out. He started to go and stuttered. This game's played by humans, not by robots."

"I don't know that we're necessarily looking at it that we're 5-0 against them. We won tonight's game, and tomorrow we'll start fresh and try to win. Obviously, you want to play well against the teams in your division, but I don't think that we're trying to carry on what happened when we were in Detroit. It starts over every time you play a team." -- Kluber

Kluber on shutout victory

• With the win, the Indians improved to 6-1 in games that Santana has served as the leadoff man this season. In those seven games, Santana has turned in a .346/.452/.615 slash line with five extra-base hits, five walks and six runs scored.

• Right-handed hitter Castellanos had two of Detroit's five hits against Kluber to improve to 31-for-72 (.431) against right-handed pitching this season, tops in the Majors.

The Tigers gained a double play to end the seventh inning when Ausmus challenged the call that Uribe avoided Kinsler's tag between first and second base. Replay showed that Kinsler tagged Uribe on the back on his way by as he ran into the grass, and the call was overturned.

Tigers turn DP after challenge

Tigers: Detroit's top prospect, Michael Fulmer (1-0, 3.60), will make his second Major League start when he faces the Indians in Thursday night's 6:10 ET series finale. Fulmer won his big league debut last Friday at Minnesota with five innings of two-run ball.

Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (1-0, 5.28 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Tribe. On Saturday in Philadelphia, the righty gave up three runs on five hits in four innings of a no-decision. Bauer logged 78 pitches in that outing, which was his first start since moving out of the bullpen in place of the injured Carlos Carrasco.

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Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.