CLEVELAND: The Indians have had often-documented struggles scoring runs with Corey Kluber on the mound. That trend continued Tuesday night, but the bigger issue was Kluber not helping his own cause.
Kluber wasn’t at his best and operated with little room for error, and the Indians lost to the Texas Rangers 7-3. It was the Indians’ third consecutive loss since temporarily grabbing first place in the American League Central on Saturday.
The Rangers took the lead with a two-run home run for the second day in a row. This time, it was an unlikely candidate. After Jared Hoying singled to open the top of the third, catcher Bryan Holaday, hitting ninth, belted a two-run home run off Kluber.
Two innings later, Jurickson Profar hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot to right field to put the Rangers ahead 3-0. They were the sixth and seventh home runs Kluber has allowed this season, each coming on the first pitch.
“I think a lot of hitters want to hit off Kluber the first straight one they see because his off-speed is so good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I don’t think you can go out there and throw all off-speed.”
That was all the offense the Rangers (31-21) needed behind starter Colby Lewis (5-0, 3.09 ERA).
In Lewis’ six innings, the Indians (26-24) struggled to get anything going. A scoring chance in the bottom of the third that began with singles by Lonnie Chisenhall and Rajai Davis went for naught when Carlos Santana grounded out and Jason Kipnis flied out.
Two innings later, another missed scoring opportunity. Santana and Francisco Lindor each drew walks, but Lewis escaped by getting Mike Napoli to ground out to third base.
The Indians scored in the seventh against reliever Tony Barnette. Chisenhall, who’s quietly been hitting better lately, clubbed a two-run home run to right field to cut the Rangers’ lead to 3-2. It was his first home run of the season.
The Rangers got those runs back in the eighth. With two on, Ian Desmond ripped a two-run double to right field to make it 5-2 and end Kluber’s day. Adrian Beltre then drove in another with a double to center field against Bryan Shaw. Shawn Armstrong made his season debut with the Indians in the ninth, allowing one run on Hoying’s RBI single.
Chisenhall added an RBI single in the ninth, but that’s all the Indians could muster. Chisenhall hit .313 in the month of May after a slow April.
“I think he swung the bat very well tonight,” Francona said. “And he’s been starting to get his hits, but tonight he got his legs under him and drove the ball which is really good to see. That’ll help us a ton.”
Kluber (4-6, 4.15 ERA) was tagged for five earned runs on eight hits to go with six strikeouts in his seven innings pitched. The Indians have now scored more than four runs only once in Kluber’s 11 starts.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RyanLewisABJ