Kluber, Encarnacion propel Indians past Royals
CLEVELAND -- The winning streak may be over, but the winning isn‘t.
Corey Kluber pitched seven scoreless innings and Edwin Encarnacion belted his 36th home run as the Cleveland Indians won nine of 10 games on their homestand by defeating the Kansas City Royals 3-2 on Sunday at Progressive Field.
After having their 22-game winning streak halted on Friday, the Indians won on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Since Aug. 24, their record is 24-1.
The Indians clinched the AL Central when second place Minnesota lost to Toronto on Saturday night.
On Sunday, the Indians celebrated by hoisting the division championship banner prior to the contest and held the traditional champagne-spraying clubhouse party after the game.
“It’s nice to do it here,” said Kluber. “Especially since last year we didn’t have a chance to share it with the fans at all, so it’s nice. They have been so supportive of us all year, it’s nice to share it with them and let them kind of celebrate with us.”
With a record of 93-57, the Indians have a chance to win 100 games for only the third time in franchise history. The last time they did it was 1995.
“This team is getting a reputation as a team that can overcome injuries and other challenges. And we didn’t rely on two or three stars. Everyone contributed,” Indians president Chris Antonetti said.
“It’s an easy team to like and get behind, and organizationally, we’ve gotten really good at the ‘we’ mentality,” manager Terry Francona said.
Kluber (17-4), who struck out nine and did not walk a batter, has pitched 22 consecutive scoreless innings over his last three starts. Cody Allen pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to pick up his 28th save.
Kluber’s nine strikeouts gave him 252 for the season, making him one of five players in club history to reach 250 strikeouts.
“He’s just so tough,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He pounds down and away, down and away, with that heavy sinker, and then the slider and breaking ball. He’s a premiere guy. The year he won the Cy Young Award (in 2014) is the way he looks now.”
Royals starter Danny Duffy (8-9) took the loss, although he pitched well. Duffy threw 62 pitches and allowed one earned run on one hit in five innings, with eight strikeouts and no walks. He had been on the disabled list since Aug. 26 with a left elbow impingement.
“He only threw 15 balls all day. I expected him to be good, but he was really good,” Yost said.
Duffy retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced before Austin Jackson led off the fourth inning by reaching on an error by second baseman Whit Merrifield. Carlos Santana flied out but Encarnacion pounded a 2-1 pitch over the left field wall, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.
The Indians scored what turned out to be the winning run in the seventh inning. Greg Allen got hit by a pitch from Peter Moylan, went to third on a single by Roberto Perez, and scored when Giovanny Urshela grounded into a force out at second.
The Royals’ only runs came on a two-out, two-run single by Brandon Moss off reliever Tyler Olson in the eighth inning.
Kluber held the Royals hitless until Paulo Orlando sliced a single to right field with one out in the fifth inning. Kansas City’s only other hits off Kluber were seventh-inning singles by Hosmer and Cheslor Cuthbert.
Having clinched the AL Central, the Indians still have 14 games left in the regular season, but Kluber is not concerned about the team growing complacent.
“We’ve clinched the division, but I think we all realize there are things still to be done,” Kluber said. “We want to try to get home field and try to get everybody in a good spot by the time the postseason comes, so we’re not going to coast or anything like that.”
NOTES: Indians 2B Jason Kipnis made his first career start in center field Sunday. Kipnis, who played center field in college at Arizona State, is getting a trial in center field as a potential replacement for injured OF Bradley Zimmer. Kipnis played five innings and did not have a ball hit to him. ... Indians 2B Jose Ramirez was given a second consecutive day off Sunday to rest his sore hamstring. He’s expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday when the Indians open a series with the Angels. ... Royals 3B Mike Moustakas did not start Sunday due to a sore right knee, the result of a collision with Cleveland 3B Yandy Diaz, who slid hard into third base in the sixth inning Saturday. Moustakas did pinch hit in the eighth inning and struck out. ... C Salvador Perez missed the last three games of the Cleveland series with a strained muscle on his right side.