CLEVELAND — Ace Corey Kluber has lifted the Indians up on so many occasions this season that it was almost shocking to see the right-hander let them down Monday at Progressive Field.
In the opener of a pivotal four-game series against Central Division rival Detroit, Kluber offered up his worst outing of the season as the Tigers rolled to a 12-1 victory in front of 23,296 fans.
Lasting just 2⅔ innings in his shortest outing of the year, Kluber allowed five runs on seven hits — three home runs — leaving the Indians in a hole they never came close to emerging from.
Kluber (13-9, 2.72 ERA) surrendered a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera in the opening inning, then allowed back-to-back homers to Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez in the third.
His postgame meeting with the media was about as short as his outing, with an irritated Kluber offering up brief and terse statements to reporters.
“I just got some pitches too elevated and they took advantage of them,” Kluber said. “(Cabrera and Victor Martinez are) good hitters. If you make mistakes to them, they usually take advantage of them.”
Kluber, who has been mentioned as a Cy Young candidate, hasn’t been as dominant over his last three outings, allowing at least three runs in each start.
“I keep getting asked that,” manager Terry Francona said of Kluber’s perceived scuffles as of late. “I don’t quite see what everybody else is.”
Kluber has already logged a career-high 195⅓ innings (29 starts) this year, but said he is not feeling the effects of the long season.
“I told you five days ago, I feel fine,” he said.
It was a bad day all around for Cleveland pitchers, who surrendered a season-high 20 hits and five homers.
Not surprisingly, Cabrera and Victor Martinez — the third and fourth hitters in Detroit’s order — did damage. Cabrera entered the day without a homer since Aug. 2 and facing health concerns, but he went deep twice during a 4-for-5 day that included three RBIs and four runs.
“He doesn’t look like he’s running real good, but I’m not sure it matters when you’re jogging,” Francona said of Cabrera. “They don’t share that stuff with us, the health of their players, but his bat’s not broken.”
Kluber wasn’t helped by his defense, notably right fielder Mike Aviles, who misplayed a ball from the first batter of the game that went for a triple, then allowed a two-out blooper from Cabrera to drop in front of him that would have ended the third inning without three runs scoring.
“That’s tough, ’cause that’s a 1-2-3 inning for Klubes,” Francona said of the third. “I know a lot happened after that, but ...”
Aviles was removed from the game in the fourth inning after jarring his head on the turf during the first-inning dive and feeling light-headed. Cleveland committed its major league-leading 105th error on Lonnie Chisenhall’s wide throw in the fourth inning, accounting for the third baseman’s team-leading 17th error.
Former Cy Young award winner David Price did a number on the Indians over seven innings, allowing his lone run on a two-out double from Carlos Santana in the first. Price, who allowed hits in six of his seven innings, struck out eight.
“He’s a little bit different than he used to be in that he can now sink his fastball,” Francona said. “He still has very good life and movement. He’s been pitching for a while now and he knows what he’s doing and he’s got the stuff go with it. We had hits. It’s hard. He’s really good.”
The Indians finished August with a 17-9 record, pending the outcome of Sunday’s suspended game with the Royals. They lost for just the second time in eight games after entering the day 3½ games behind division-leading Kansas City, and three games out of the wild-card race.