ARLINGTON, Texas: It didn’t take an act of Congress; it didn’t even take a perfect game or a grand slam.
The Indians stopped their eight-game losing streak in traditional fashion, merely outpitching and outhitting the Rangers, who fell 5-2 Tuesday night at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Corey Kluber was the Rangers’ No. 1 nemesis, delivering the best start of his infant career.
He handled a tough-hitting lineup for eight innings, giving up one run, six hits and three walks. He induced the Rangers to beat the ball into the dirt 14 times for 16 outs (two double plays) and didn’t give up a run until the eighth on a single by Jurickson Profar and David Murphy’s double.
“Every time he takes the mound, we get excited,” manager Terry Francona said. “When he was pitching against CC [Sabathia] last week, Mickey [pitching coach Mickey Callaway] and I almost jogged to the ballpark. Kluber is getting better before our eyes.”
What did Kluber think Francona meant by that?
“I don’t think I could pinpoint one thing,” he said. “Getting your confidence is big. And getting in a regular routine is important for me.”
Kluber (4-4, 4.08 ERA) did his work with the utmost efficiency, using only 104 pitches, 66 percent of them strikes.
“He didn’t throw more than 10 pitches in an inning until the sixth,” Francona said.
It was the longest outing of Kluber’s career, which consists of 21 starts. Twice he went seven innings, last September against the White Sox and in April against the Royals. In his past six starts, Kluber has compiled a 3.09 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 35 innings.
Kluber went to high school in Coppell, Texas, just north of Dallas, so it was presumed he enjoyed pitching in intense heat.
“Now that I look back, when I was a kid, I don’t see how we played two or three games in one day,” he said.
Temperature at first pitch was 91 degrees, about normal for this time of year.
He pitched in the Ballpark in Arlington when he was in a college summer league, so starting in the big leagues here was not on his bucket list.
“It was no different than any other game,” he said.
Probably the single most important play for the Tribe was turned in by Michael Brantley, after Kluber walked the first two batters in the sixth inning.
Murphy launched a hooking drive to left. Brantley had to retreat quickly to make the catch, and Leury Garcia, who was on second, sprinted for third, but Brantley threw him out, with Mark Reynolds catching the relay and making the tag almost simultaneously.
“That was a big play by Michael in left,” Francona said. “At the time, it was a really big play, by both guys.”
With Derek Holland on the mound for the Rangers, the Indians didn’t figure to go on a scoring binge. Holland came into the game with a 5-2 record and a 2.82 ERA and had a career record against the Tribe of 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts.
For three innings, Holland was in charge, though Carlos Santana ran his team out of scoring opportunity, when he was thrown out trying to turn a single into a double in the second inning. Naturally, the next batter, Reynolds, also singled.
The Indians got a run in the fourth when Ryan Raburn led off with a double, took third on a long fly out and scored on Reynolds’ single.
In the fifth inning, the Tribe put together a jabbing and pecking rally consisting of no home runs, no doubles and no weird plays. Yan Gomes led off with a single and stopped at second on Mike Aviles’ single. Holland threw the ball into center field for an error trying off pick off Gomes to put runners on second and third, and Drew Stubbs poked a single to left to score both.
The rally continued with Jason Kipnis getting hit by a pitch to move Stubbs to second, from where Nick Swisher delivered an RBI single.
That ended the rally, but before the inning could conclude, Holland was removed, having given up four runs nine hits and one walk in 4⅓ innings. He was replaced by Kyle McClellan, who threw one pitch, inducing Reynolds to bounce into a double play.
The Indians didn’t need a hit to score a run in the seventh against McClellan, who walked Kipnis to start the inning. Kipnis stole second took third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch.
“We played a nice ballgame,” Francona said. “And we kept the line going at the plate [in the fifth].”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.