CLEVELAND – Despite a 30-minute rain delay, the Indians wasted no time in filling the stat sheet once their series opener against the Orioles started on Monday evening.
Corey Kluber delivered his fifth career shutout behind 12 runs on 17 hits of offense en route to a 12-0 thrashing of Baltimore from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Seven of the nine hitters in manager Terry Francona’s batting order registered multi-hit performances while Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion both etched their name in the record books.
Two milestones start scoring
Ramirez became the first player in franchise history to record a double in seven consecutive games with a two-bagger in the fourth.
“To go from .260 to almost .320, that’s incredible,” said Francona of Ramirez’s rising batting average. “He obviously makes solid contact a lot. He uses the whole field. He doesn’t strike out very much. You’re going to get hits because it’s hard to defend. He’s just putting the barrel on the ball so often.”
Shortly thereafter, Encarnacion and Lonnie Chisenhall knocked in a pair of runs before Austin Jackson plated two of his own on a double, handing Dylan Bundy and the Orioles a 4-0 deficit. Encarnacion’s double was the 1,500th hit of his career and fifth consecutive at-bat with an RBI.
“From the top to the bottom, everybody’s having good at-bats, going up there trying to get the job done,” Jackson said. “We’ve been doing a good job with driving the ball when we get our pitch. Like I said, it’s contagious. One guy does it (then) it seems like it trickles down the order.”
Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana blasted a pair of home runs to end Bundy’s brief appearance before Jackson doubled in another run, putting the game out of reach in the fifth frame.
“It was nice to see Santana hit a home run right-handed,” said Francona. “Jackson had the two big hits and then the one he probably hit the best got caught at the wall. Kip swung the bat. We did a lot of good things. We scored and then we kept at it. We put our foot on the gas. These nights are rare, but you’ll take them.”
Kluber rolls to efficient outing
Although overshadowed by the massive offensive production, Kluber was just as dominant by setting down 27 of the 30 opposing hitters he faced.
“I think that it’s being able to throw all my pitches for strikes and being able to command them,” Kluber said of his outings since returning from the disabled list. “I feel like that’s been the biggest difference since before I went on it.”
Kluber surrendered singles to Seth Smith, Adam Jones and Hyun Soo Kim, none of which advanced past first base.
“Between the breaking ball, cutter, two-seamer, the ball was moving all over the place,” said Francona. “When we broke through with four (runs) and then we followed it up with four (runs), he was able to pitch aggressive because you leave a fastball over (the plate), it’s not the end of the world. He got in a rhythm. That was so nice to see.”
The right-hander never threw more than 15 pitches in an inning and finished with a final line of 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R/ER, 0 BB, 11 K (108 pitches, 80 strikes, 74.1%, 12 groundouts, one flyout).
“I really try to keep it basic and just go out there,” Kluber said. “Inning by inning. Pitch by pitch. It sounds boring, but that’s what works best for me instead of getting too far ahead of myself.”
Adding more insurance
Cleveland registered a third straight crooked number in the sixth courtesy of Chisenhall’s RBI single, Santana’s sacrifice fly and Bradley Zimmer’s RBI single.
“It’s definitely nice,” said Kluber of the extra run support. “I think that it all starts with the energy. You feel it from the first pitch. Just the vibe in that dugout, I think guys trying to be more aggressive instead of just letting the game come to us. Kind of force the issue a little bit more.”
The bats finished with a season-high 10 extra-base hits in front of 13,875 demoralized Baltimore fans.
“I think we’re doing a good job of focusing more on that day at hand,” Kipnis said of the six-game winning streak. “Coming to the ballpark with the goal of winning that game, that day. Not worrying about other stuff. In the team meeting we made an emphasis about it. I think you’ve seen a different team (with) different energy from us the last week. It only shows us what we can do when we bring that energy.”
“It’s been a fun week for us.”
Game 2 of the weekday series is on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
RHP Josh Tomlin (4-8, 5.83) will look to keep traffic to a minimum despite a career-high 36.5% hard-hit percentage. The 32-year-old right-hander gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings in a winning effort last Thursday vs. Los Angeles.
RHP Chris Tillman (1-5, 8.07) is off to a rocky start, allowing at least three runs in all but one of his appearances this season. Encarnacion and Kipnis have combined for five career home runs off the 29-year-old veteran.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.