CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber was in trouble early and often against the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field Friday night, but each time, he fought his way out of it.
Having to pitch with two runners on base in each of the first three innings, Kluber was able to scatter six hits and two walks over 6.1 innings of work against a potent Blue Jays lineup, and that helped the Indians to a 2-0 win and a 1-0 series lead.
“Their whole lineup, one through nine, is dangerous,” Kluber said. “I know the middle of the lineup gets a lot of attention for the home runs they hit, but I think their whole lineup is dangerous. I made some mistakes early on, and they were able to take advantage of them for base hits, but it's really just trying to stick with that same approach, get ahead of them and put them in defensive counts so they're not key-holing one pitch.”
Kluber got off to a good beginning in Game 1 by striking out Blue Jays lead-off hitter Ezequiel Carrera on just three pitches, but one of the most potent lineups in Major League Baseball had an answer for the early success.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson lined a single to center field and first baseman Edwin Encarnacion smashed a double that hit off the base of the wall in deep right field. However, Donaldson held up at third base and did not test a potential play at home plate.
Working with two runners in scoring position and only one out against one of Toronto’s most prolific hitters, Jose Bautista, Kluber settled in, reestablished his strike zone and set down the Blue Jays’ No. 4 batter swinging. Then, he got catcher Russell Martin to ground out to first baseman Mike Napoli for the final out of the inning.
Much like Toronto’s first trip to the plate, Kluber had to work around a pair of Blue Jays base runners with less than two out in the second inning.
Down in the count, 0-2, Toronto designated hitter Michael Saunders hit a one-out single to right field, and then, center fielder Kevin Pillar drew a walk on just five pitches from Kluber. However, against second baseman Devon Travis, Kluber worked from in front and got the No. 9 hitter in Toronto’s lineup to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Kluber again had to work out of a potential jam in the top of the third inning.
After getting two quick outs on an attempted bunt turned groundout to the pitcher’s mound and a pop out to shortstop, Kluber had Encarnacion in the hole at 0-2. But Encarnacion smacked the next offering into center field for the Blue Jays’ fourth hit of the game. Then, Bautista drew a four-pitch walk to put a runner in scoring position for the third straight inning.
Working out of the stretch with the runners on base, Kluber struck out Martin swinging to end Toronto’s third potential rally in as many at-bats.
“There were some stressful innings early on, but it wasn't like the wheels were spinning kind of thing,” Kluber said. “I was doing a good job of getting ahead in the count, I just didn't make good pitches once I was there, so it was just trying to fix that issue.”