After 3 strong starts, Kluber stumbles

Indians righty chased from loss against Astros during 5-run third inning

After 3 strong starts, Kluber stumbles

HOUSTON -- Indians manager Terry Francona had every reason to be optimistic about Corey Kluber before Monday night's 7-1 loss to the Astros. After all, the righty had allowed just four runs (three earned) over 24 innings in his previous three starts.

Francona even got a little bold. He thought Kluber was finally summoning his 2014 Cy Young form again.

Kluber's first inning seemed to back up his manager's high praise, as he struck out Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa in order on just 12 pitches.

That bubble popped in the third inning. The first six Astros reached on two doubles, three singles and a walk, and Kluber was out of the game after two outs in the frame with Cleveland trailing by five runs.

"He came out of the chute so good," Francona said. "And then all of a sudden, everything was catching too much of the plate. … Just all the pitches were running towards the middle."

Astros plate five in the 3rd

Kluber lamented falling behind too often, saying he tried to compensate a bit too much and ended up with pitches that may not have missed the target by much but were in the heart of the zone.

"First few guys, fell behind them and had to get back in the count, and they took advantage of pitches that weren't well located," he said.

After his last start, Kluber said he had one mini stretch -- a half-dozen pitches or so -- when he completely lost control of his stuff. That was during a shutout on Wednesday against the Tigers.

Did he suffer that same fate Monday, only to have it burn him this time?

"There wasn't any long stretches like that, just some pitches I didn't locate that well, and when I threw those pitches, they took advantage of them," Kluber said.

The location issue wasn't specific to one pitch, either. Kluber probably could've pitched around that. But Francona said the changeup, two-seamer and cutter were all ripped during Houston's third-inning knockout blow.

It was a concentrated blow at that, and Cleveland's offense wasn't able to rally on a three-hit night for the Tribe. But Kluber's struggles cost the Indians, who were fresh off a series win over Kansas City.

"On a night where they had eight hits, they had five and a walk in that span," Francona said. "That ended up being too much for us."

Added Kluber: "It's frustrating if it happened in the third, first, sixth inning, whatever. I didn't want to put the team in that big of a hole. I didn't do my job."

Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.