Kluber, Indians end Mariners’ playoff hopes
SEATTLE -- In the mind of Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, right-hander Corey Kluber isn’t on any kind of hot streak - he is just that good. And because of that, the Seattle Mariners’ last chance to sneak into the playoffs evaporated.
Kluber pitched seven strong innings and Jose Ramirez hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning as the Indians defeated Seattle 4-2 on Sunday, mathematically eliminating the Mariners from the American League wild-card race.
“I don’t know if I would consider it a run,” Francona said of his ace right-hander winning his sixth consecutive start. “I think he’s just that good. Once he gets comfortable and gets his legs under him in a season, he pitches at such a high level.”
The Mariners extended their playoff drought to 16 years, the longest in the majors, in their final home game of the season.
Cleveland (98-58) improved its lead for the best record in the American League to two games over Houston, with the Astros hosting a late game against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Indians also remained a game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Seattle (75-81) suffered its eighth loss in nine games.
Kluber (18-4) surrendered two runs and six hits. He struck out 10 and walked two on 108 pitches. But he didn’t think his outing met his Cy Young Award standards.
“Just not quite as sharp,” the Indians’ ace said. “You had the two extra days, kind of threw me out of my rhythm a little bit. But I just didn’t feel as crisp as when you throw every fifth day.”
Ramirez continued to haunt the Mariners’ pitchers, going 2-for-4 and scoring two runs. Jason Kipnis went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Cody Allen picked up his 29th save of the season for the Indians.
Mike Leake (3-1 with Seattle, 10-13 overall) went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs and seven hits with five strikeouts. It was Leake’s first loss in five starts since being traded to Seattle on Aug 30.
On the other side, the sting of missing the playoffs yet again hurt after the Mariners started their homestand four games out of the wild-card race.
“The finality of it all hurts, there’s no question about it,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I thought we did an unbelievable job this year to hang in there.”
Cleveland began the scoring in the fourth inning. Ramirez led off with a hard single up the middle and stole second. Edwin Encarnacion followed with a double to dead left field to score Ramirez.
With one out, Kipnis added an RBI double to the base of the right-field wall to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.
Former Mariner Austin Jackson snuffed out a Seattle rally in the fourth inning. With one out and runners on first and second, Jackson gloved a deep drive by Yonder Alonso, then fired back to Francisco Lindor, whose relay doubled Kyle Seager off first.
“That changed the momentum,” Servais said. “Kind of changed everything there.”
But the Mariners bounced back in the fifth when Ben Gamel clubbed his 11th homer, a two-run shot off Kluber to tie the score 2-2.
Cleveland reclaimed the lead when Ramirez homered to lead off the sixth. The Indians tacked on a run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Kipnis.
NOTES: Umpire crew chief Sam Holbrook asked for a video review on Indians slugger Edwin Encarnacion’s long foul ball to left in the second inning. The replay confirmed the ball was foul, left of the foul pole. ... Cleveland 1B Carlos Santana was out of the lineup after hurting a shoulder in a collision at first base on Saturday. But Indians manager Terry Francona indicated he expected the slugger to return quickly. ... Indians RHP Corey Kluber walked a September-high two batters; for the month, Kluber has three walks and 47 strikeouts. ... Seattle SS Jean Segura missed the game after suffering a contusion of his right middle finger on Saturday. ... Mariners RHP Shae Simmons went two-thirds of an inning in relief, allowing a hit and an earned run. It was the first time in seven appearances this season he didn’t pitch a full inning.