Yonder Alonso, Melky Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion all homered for Cleveland, and Kluber pitched into the eighth inning in an 8-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. It was a positive step for the star right-hander, who was coming off a couple unimpressive starts.
Last year, Kluber went 11-1 with a 1.79 ERA after the All-Star break, on his way to his second Cy Young Award. Francona has high hopes that his pitcher is rounding into form again.
"He will. He's going in the right direction, and he's not going to shortchange you on effort," the Cleveland manager said. "So he's getting closer. I think he'll be fine."
Rajai Davis added a triple and two doubles for the Indians, who took two of three in Detroit and extended their AL Central lead to nine games over Minnesota. It's the largest division lead in the major leagues at the moment.
Kluber (13-6) allowed a run and five hits in 7 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out five.
"I think there were still times where I might have felt a little off, but I was able to make the adjustments a little bit quicker," Kluber said.
Jordan Zimmermann (4-3) allowed five runs and six hits in three innings.
Kluber was coming off a couple rough outings. He gave up six runs to the Yankees in his last start before the All-Star break, and he went just four innings in his next appearance. He allowed a run to the Tigers in the first but kept them off the scoreboard after that.
Cabrera hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot in the second that put Cleveland ahead 2-1. Francisco Lindor added an RBI single that inning, and Alonso made it 5-1 with a two-run homer in the third.
"I thought I had pretty good stuff," Zimmermann said. "The curveball wasn't there, but I was locating the fastball and I thought Cabrera and (Michael) Brantley were the only two that middled my pitches. Alonso confused me, because we were going away to him on every pitch, and he was on everything, so I went up and in for the first time all day and he somehow pulled it over the fence."
Encarnacion's 24th homer of the year came in the seventh, a solo shot that made it 6-1. He also added an RBI single in the eighth, and Alonso followed that with an RBI double.
The Indians outhit Detroit 16-5.
"Zim just didn't have his stuff and they made him pay for it," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "After him, (Francisco Liriano) was good for a couple innings, but everyone after that was throwing 20 pitches an inning. I don't know how many pitches we threw as a team, but it seemed like a thousand."
Detroit's six pitchers combined to throw 190 pitches.
Kluber has won all three of his starts against Detroit this season, posting a 1.16 ERA. He's won 14 of his last 15 decisions against divisional opponents.
Sunday was Hall of Fame induction day for former Detroit stars Alan Trammell and Jack Morris and former Cleveland slugger Jim Thome. Clips were shown on the scoreboard from speeches by Trammell and Morris, and Thome's speech was on TVs in the Cleveland clubhouse after the game.
Tigers: Liriano, who missed a scheduled start Saturday because of an allergic reaction that was giving him rashes on his back, came on in relief of Zimmermann and pitched two scoreless innings.
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