By August Fagerstrom
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: A chorus of boos that filled the air at Progressive Field during the ninth inning of Sunday afternoon’s game between the Indians and Kansas City Royals might have given the wrong impression, from the outside, of how the game was going for the Indians.
The boos were for Indians manager Terry Francona, who removed starting pitcher Corey Kluber, just two outs away from throwing his second career complete game in a 4-1 victory over the Royals.
A clearer picture of what had happened on the field was painted by the reaction Kluber received: a standing ovation.
“That’s a good thing,” Francona said of being booed by his home crowd. “If they want our guys to stay in and it’s the ninth, something good is happening. I don’t blame them. If I was managing with my heart, I would have left him in there, too.”
Kluber (8-6) was as locked in as ever, striking out 10 batters in 8⅓ innings and walking just one. He allowed one earned run on a Mike Moustakas solo homer in the fifth inning. He allowed just four hits. Two of them didn’t even leave the infield.
“It’s sure nice to write his name in there,” Francona said. “He has weapons and he has poise and he competes. He threw a bad cutter to Moustakas, and every pitch we don’t execute to him, he seems like he hits it. But other than that, man, he was really good.”
Kluber’s other complete game came against the Royals earlier this season, on April 24, when he struck out 11 and walked just one. Despite his prior dominance against the Royals, he still found it necessary to adjust his approach, making a point to pound hitters inside after they spent their last outing against Kluber looking out over the plate.
Six of Kluber’s 10 strikeouts on Sunday came by means of his curveball, set up by his change in approach.
“I think that was set up by pitching them in,” Kluber said. “I think the hitters were expecting the fastball in, so they were having to commit a little earlier.”
Cody Allen relieved Kluber and made quick work of the only two batters he faced to earn his ninth save.
On the mound for the Royals was Danny Duffy, who owns the highest average fastball velocity of any left-handed starting pitcher in baseball, at 93.4 mph. The Indians tagged Duffy for a season-high 10 hits in six innings, scoring all four runs against him.
“I thought when he left his fastball out over the plate, we hit it,” Francona said. “He’s got real good velocity, but when he left it over the middle, we had good swings at it.”
Carlos Santana led off the second inning by taking a 1-1 pitch to the opposite field for his 13th home run of the year, tying Michael Brantley for tops on the team.
Three batters later, Yan Gomes took a fastball to dead center field for a two-run homer, his 10th of the season.
Brantley added on in the fifth inning with his team-leading 57th RBI, driving in Jason Kipnis with a single.
Kipnis received a start in the leadoff spot for just the second time this year after regular leadoff hitter Michael Bourn was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury. Francona did not commit to Kipnis being the everyday leadoff hitter during Bourn’s absence, rather saying he would play it by ear.
Kipnis went 1-for-4 with a single, run scored and a strikeout.
Tyler Holt, who was called up from Triple-A before the game to take Bourn’s spot on the roster, made his major-league debut in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement for Ryan Raburn in right field.