By Jordan Bastian and William Kosileski
CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber went the distance on Tuesday night, buying the Indians' offense the maximum amount of time possible to piece together a rally. The ace's work paid off in the ninth inning, when Yan Gomes stepped up with a three-run, walk-off home run to propel the Tribe to a 4-1 victory over the Rockies.
With two outs in the home half of the final frame, Gomes crushed a pitch from Colorado closer Greg Holland into the left-field stands, setting off an on-field party as fireworks popped over the roaring Progressive Field crowd. Gomes' blast followed a two-out, game-tying RBI single from Austin Jackson, allowing Kluber to avoid walking away with a hard-luck loss following a nine-inning, 11-strikeout performance.
"Until we've used all our outs," Kluber said, "I think we all still believe that we have a chance."
Thanks to some stellar pitching from Rockies starter German Marquez and the Colorado bullpen, Kluber's effort nearly went for naught. Two pitches into the game, Rockies leadoff man Charlie Blackmon crushed a Kluber fastball over the wall in center, giving Marquez a 1-0 lead that held until the bottom of the ninth.
Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds helped preserve that slim cushion in the sixth, when Abraham Almonte came up with one out and runners on first and second. He ripped a sharp grounder up the line with an exit velocity of 100 mph, per Statcast™, but Reynolds sprang to his left, nabbing the ball with an all-out dive. Marquez then retired Jose Ramirez -- on another nice play by Reynolds -- to escape the jam.
"You don't think that that [Blackmon homer] is going to stand up," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "The way their guy was pitching, it about did. We didn't do much, and when we did, Reynolds [made] a game saver there, because we probably score two on that ball Abe hit."
Marquez stifled Cleveland's lineup over six-plus brilliant innings, and Kluber continued to make his mark on baseball's record book with another complete-game effort. For the 13th consecutive start, Kluber amassed at least eight strikeouts, joining Randy Johnson (three times) and Pedro Martinez (twice) as the only pitchers since at least 1913 to enjoy a streak of that kind.
"It kind of takes a guy like Kluber to get through a lineup like that, man," Gomes said. "They put up some good at-bats, but it goes to show, man. Kluber is legit."
Marquez was perfect through the first 10 batters he faced before flinching in the fourth, when Francisco Lindor doubled off the wall in center. That would prove to be only one of two hits surrendered on the night for the Rockies right-hander, who has spun a 2.95 ERA in his past six turns in the rotation. Due to the Tribe's late rally, Marquez walked away with a no-decision.
"[Kluber] was outstanding, and our guy was outstanding, too," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "I'm really proud of German [for] matching Kluber."
Kluber, who threw a complete game for the second straight start, limited Colorado to three hits in his 10th win of the season. Following Blackmon's homer and a single by DJ LeMahieu in the first, Kluber held the Rockies to a 1-for-27 showing the rest of the way, setting the stage for Cleveland's fourth walk-off win of the year.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Jackson vs. Holland: With two outs and runners on first and second in the ninth, Holland worked Jackson into an 0-2 count by getting him to swing through two sliders. From there, Jackson and Colorado's closer engaged in a game-changing battle. Jackson fouled off three pitches and took a pair for balls. Jackson then flared a final slider to shallow center, where Blackmon made a diving catch attempt, but came up short. It would have been an incredible grab, considering the play had a 26-percent catch probability, per Statcast™. Pinch-runner Brandon Guyer scored on the base hit, pulling the game into a 1-1 deadlock.
"Jackson's at-bat at the end was outstanding," Black said. "He fought Greg tooth and nail. That was a really good at-bat, and he blooped one in there. Charlie just couldn't get there. That happens."
Live and learn: The Indians had the makings of a rally in the seventh. With one on and one out, Bradley Zimmer hit a soft popup over the mound and only took a couple of steps toward first while watching the would-be out. Instead, the ball dropped between reliever Chris Rusin and third baseman Nolan Arenado. With Carlos Santana not holding and Zimmer not sprinting up the line, Arenado plucked the ball from the grass and ended the inning with a 5-4-3 double play. Francona was spotted talking things over with Zimmer in the dugout.
"I obviously made a pretty big mistake there," Zimmer said. "That's just not me. I apologized to Tito. It's something that happened and I learned my lesson. It won't happen again. I'm really happy that we were able to [rally in the ninth]."
In the bottom of the ninth, Zimmer drew a critical two-out walk ahead of Jackson's game-tying single, giving the rookie a bit of redemption.
"Sometimes you learn lessons the hard way," Francona said. "I would go on a limb and say that'll never happen the rest of his career. And I say that with confidence."
"I knew we ended the game right there. It was kind of funny because I'm rounding second and [Jason] Kipnis is running towards me, I'm like, 'Oh, get out! It's a home run, man!' I was waiting for the umpire to say to stop at second or something, because he's like high-fiving me at second. I've never done that before." -- Gomes, on the walk-off celebration
"He's a really good pitcher. When you face [Clayton] Kershaw and [Madison] Bumgarner, we see them all the time, but we see them. A guy like Kluber, we don't see a whole lot. I think it makes it that much more difficult. He's really good." -- LeMahieu, on facing Kluber in the Interleague matchup
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Blackmon's homer in the first marked his fifth leadoff shot of the season. It was also his 27th career leadoff blast, moving him into a tie with Johnny Damon for 20th on baseball's all-time list (using available data that goes back to 1930).
Kluber now has at least 11 strikeouts in five consecutive starts. He joined Johnson (three times), Martinez (twice), Chris Sale, J.R. Richard and Nolan Ryan (once apiece) on the short list of pitchers to have a streak of that kind in baseball history.
BRANTLEY EXITS WITH INJURY
Indians left fielder Michael Brantley left the game in the fifth inning after sustaining a sprained right ankle. On a fly ball to center off the bat of Reynolds, Brantley broke hard to his left for a few steps before pulling up lame and sitting down in the grass in left. He was met by one of the team's trainers before walking off the field under his own power. Almonte took over in left for the Tribe. After the game, Francona said Brantley was taken to undergo an MRI exam and the team hoped to have more information on Wednesday morning.
WHAT'S NEXT Rockies:Antonio Senzatela (10-4, 4.78 ERA) will take the mound in Wednesday's 10:10 a.m. MDT series finale against the Indians at Progressive Field. The right-hander will make his first start since July 24, as he was since moved to the bullpen to control his innings and work on his fastball command.
Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (10-8, 5.00 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Tribe in Wednesday's 12:10 p.m. ET tilt with the Rockies at Progressive Field. Bauer is 7-3 with a 4.07 ERA in 12 home starts this year, and he has gone 7-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 20 career Interleague appearances.