CLEVELAND (AP)– Terry Francona heard the boos from the home crowd, and the Cleveland Indians manager didn’t mind one bit.
Francona pulled Corey Kluber two outs short of a complete game in Cleveland’s 4-1 win over Kansas City on Sunday. The crowd of 16,991 wanted to see Kluber, who allowed four hits and struck out 10 in 8 1/3 innings, finish the game, and the fans let Francona know they didn’t agree with his decision.
“I don’t blame them,” Francona said. “If I was managing with my heart, I’d have left him in there, too.”
Kluber (8-6) took a three-hitter into the ninth before Eric Hosmer started the inning with a double. The right-hander, who gave up a solo homer to Mike Moustakas in the fifth, was removed after striking out Salvador Perez.
Kluber also heard the boos and used the opportunity to take a good-natured jab at his manager.
“Kip (second baseman Jason Kipnis) was giving him a hard time, too,” he said. “It was pretty funny, I guess.”
Cody Allen recorded the final two outs for his ninth save, and Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes homered in a three-run second inning.
Kluber, who walked one, retired the first seven hitters before Jarrod Dyson’s infield single with one out in the third. Lorenzo Cain also had an infield hit in the sixth.
Kluber has been Cleveland’s ace all season. He has four double-figure strikeout games.
“It sure is nice, man, to write his name in there,” Francona said. “He has weapons, he has poise, and he competes.” Francona said.
Kluber is working to stay on an even keel throughout the season.
“I’m trying to be as consistent as I can from start to start,” Kluber said. “I try to avoid the downs as much as possible and keep the good stuff rolling.”
Kluber rarely shows any emotion on the mound, but Francona thinks appearances can be misleading.
“He’s very locked in,” Francona said. “Maybe his demeanor belies the real fire that’s in there. He gets after it.”
Even Moustakas, who walked in the seventh and is 7 for 18 against Kluber, was impressed.
“Everything he was throwing was nasty,” he said.
A lack of run support has kept Kluber from having a better record. He allowed three runs over 20 2/3 innings in his last three starts, but lost twice. Kluber held the Dodgers to one run in 6 2/3 innings on Monday, but was the losing pitcher in a 1-0 defeat.
Both of Cleveland’s home runs came off Danny Duffy (5-8). Santana led off the inning with a line drive that barely cleared the fence in right. Gomes followed with a two-run homer to center.
Michael Brantley, who went 2 for 4 to raise his average to .321, had an RBI single in the fifth.
Santana’s homer came on a 1-1 pitch and was his 13th of the season, tying him with Brantley for the team lead. Ryan Raburn followed with a single, and Gomes hit his 10th home run on a 1-0 pitch.
Cleveland has won four of five and moved within two games of second-place Kansas City in the AL Central. The Royals, who trail first-place Detroit by 4 1-2 games, dropped their first road series since losing two of three against the Los Angeles Angels from May 23-25.
Duffy allowed 10 hits and struck out six in six innings. The left-hander had a 1.69 ERA in six June starts and was 3-1 with a 1.05 ERA in his last four road starts.
The Indians placed leadoff hitter and center fielder Michael Bourn on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Bourn has been battling the injury all season and hurt it again running the bases on Saturday.
Left fielder Alex Gordon and designated hitter Billy Butler, who are both in lengthy slumps, were out of Sunday’s lineup. Gordon is mired in a 3 for 40 skid, and Butler has just three hits in 26 at-bats.