CLEVELAND (AP) — Corey Kluber’s month away didn’t have any affect his fastball, curveball or his well-known icy demeanor.
Back on the mound, Cleveland’s ace was as cool and calculating as ever.
“He was filthy,” Indians catcher Roberto Perez said.
Kluber pitched six shutout innings and struck out 10 in his first start since May 2 and the Indians scored four runs during a strange sixth inning when the outfield sprinklers came on as Cleveland pounded the error-and-strikeout prone Oakland Athletics 8-0 on Thursday.
Kluber (4-2) had been sidelined with a strained lower back, an injury that kept the righty sidelined for four weeks and deprived a struggling rotation — the Indians came in with the AL’s highest ERA — of its leader.
However, despite the long layoff, Kluber looked like his dominant self, allowing just two hits and recording his 26th career double-digit strikeout game.
“It’s nice to have him back, which kind of gives everyone a lift,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But then when he comes out and just throws the way he did. In fact, I hate to use the word throw because he pitched and his breaking ball was so, so good. He was crisp right from the get-go.”
Leading just 1-0, the Indians scored four runs — three unearned — off Jharel Cotton (3-6) in a wild sixth, when errors, replays and runs were followed by the below-the-grass sprinklers popping on in left field and spraying.
“You know, those things seem to be a little more funny when you’re winning than when you’re losing,” Francona said.
The A’s made three more errors, raising their major league-leading total to 55. And they struck out 17 times, giving Oakland 93 in the last seven games.
Their bizarre sixth looked more Little League than major league.
Athletics third baseman Ryon Healy committed two errors in the sixth, which included a bases-loaded walk by Cotton, two force-outs at the plate, a bloop RBI single and a video replay challenge by Francona and Oakland’s Bob Melvin on the same play.
Cleveland scored its third run in the inning when Carlos Santana scored from second on a headfirst dive after Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso thought the inning had ended with a double play and began walking to the dugout. His throw to the plate was too late to get Santana.
Moments later, the sprinklers went on, adding more slapstick to a comedic inning for Oakland.
“At times as a group things get contagious, whether it’s the strikeouts, whether it’s the errors and now you start thinking about what you don’t want to happen as opposed to what you want to happen, and guys get a little bit tight,” Melvin said. “That’s why I think we have games like we do today. We saw the biggest problems that we have is the defense and the strikeouts.”
Kluber coasted through the first three innings, striking out five straight at one point while plowing through Oakland’s free-swinging lineup.
He worked out of a first-and-third situation in the third by striking out Mark Canha for the second time and was otherwise in control for his entire 77-pitch outing.
Afterward, the typically stoic Kluber didn’t want to make too much of his outing.
“I think first and foremost to be able to go out there and pitch well, and give the team a chance to win. Then to be able to do that without running into any issues was also a relief.”
The A’s came in as the majors’ worst fielding team and added to their resume. Their 55 errors are 14 more than the next closest team entering Thursday’s night games.
Oakland finished with 97 errors last season.
TAKE A BREAK
Indians DH Edwin Encarnacion didn’t play for the first time this season as Francona gave the slugger a day off. Encarnacion has been emerging from a slow start, batting .321 with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last 14 games.
Athletics: RHP Jesse Hahn (strained right triceps) could rejoin the rotation next week. He threw 75 pitches in a minor league rehab assignment for Stockton (A) on Wednesday. Hahn has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 24.
Indians: RF Lonnie Chisenhall has progressed well in concussion protocol. Francona said Chisenhall will spend another day “going through a full-team workout” before being evaluated by a doctor on Friday. If there are no setbacks, Chisenhall may rejoin the team on its upcoming road trip to Kansas City and Colorado.
Athletics: Oakland opens a three-game home series with Andrew Triggs facing Washington’s Stephen Strasburg. Triggs went 1-3 with a 3.45 ERA in five May starts.
Indians: Josh Tomlin starts the opener of a three-game series in Kansas City. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two starts against the Royals this season and has a career 10-4 record against them in 19 starts.