CLEVELAND (AP) — Corey Kluber doesn’t often appear hittable, beatable or unremarkable.
It’s a baseball rarity, like a triple play.
On Friday night, it happened.
Kluber had a rare rocky performance, lasting just five innings and losing for the first time in seven starts as Kyle Gibson outpitched the Cy Young winner and Brian Dozier hit a two-run homer off him to lead the Minnesota Twins to a 6-3 win over the Cleveland Indians.
“I guess he proved he’s human,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He doesn’t look like it very often.”
Kluber (10-3) allowed a homer on his fourth pitch of the game to Eddie Rosario and was pulled after throwing just 65 pitches by Francona, who wants to preserve his ace for bigger games ahead.
“If we want to get where we want to go, he’s going to have a major part in that,” Francona said.
It was the shortest outing this season for the All-Star, who came in 5-0 with a 0.76 ERA against AL Central teams and was riding several other impressive streaks.
Kluber didn’t offer any excuses and understood Francona’s rationale for lifting him.
“Just out of whack a little bit mechanically,” Kluber said. “Obviously didn’t make good pitches to a few guys. Made some mistakes and they took advantage of it.”
Gibson (2-4) limited the Indians to one run and three hits in seven innings and got his first win since his season debut on March 31.
Yan Gomes homered in the ninth and the Indians closed to 6-3 before closer Fernando Rodney struck out Francisco Lindor with one on for his 15th save.
The Twins came into the series struggling at the plate and figured to be in for a tough time against Kluber, who has been as dominant this season as any stretch of his career and was seeking to become baseball’s first 11-game winner.
Kluber, though, wasn’t Kluber.
With Joe Mauer returning from the disabled list after missing 25 games with a strained neck and concussion-like symptoms, Minnesota manager Paul Molitor dropped Dozier from the leadoff spot to No. 5 and the second baseman responded with his two-run homer in the fourth and three RBIs.
Minnesota’s plan was to be aggressive against Kluber and it worked.
“He’s not really a guy where anybody’s too comfortable getting behind or hitting with two strikes,” Molitor said. “A lot of our damage was aggressive at-bats, Rosie first pitch and Doz I think maybe second pitch of his at-bat, so we were trying to get after him a little bit.”
Dozier put the Twins ahead 4-0 in the fourth, when Kluber allowed his first walk in seven starts.
After Rosario doubled, Kluber threw four balls to Eduardo Escobar, snapping his string without a walk at 46 1/3 innings — the longest for a Cleveland pitcher in 11 years. Rosario then scored when Lindor’s return throw to first after a force out nearly went into Minnesota’s dugout.
Dozier followed by snapping an 0-for-20 slump with his 10th homer, a shot that put Kluber in an unfamiliar hole. The steady-and-stoic star had not given up more than three runs in a game since Aug. 3, a span of 27 starts and testament to his consistency.
Lindor had two more errors, giving the Indians All-Star shortstop 10 this season, tying his total from 2017.
Francona isn’t concerned about it becoming a lasting trend.
“Shoot, he’s so good,” Francona said. “We forget how young he is sometimes, because he’s so good. If that’s the worst thing we can come up with, he’s pretty good. “
The Indians were without starting first baseman Yonder Alonso, who was placed on the family-medical-emergency list and will miss at least this series.
A trip to Progressive Field may have helped Dozier snap out of his funk. His homer was the 14th of his career at the ballpark, his most in any visiting stadium. Dozier has reached base in each of his last 19 games in Cleveland, batting .316 (24 for 76) with eight homers and 19 RBIs.
Twins: OF Byron Buxton (toe fracture) is working out with the team and could begin a minor league rehab assignment in a few days. He was injured May 29 and placed on the disabled list the following day.
Indians: There’s still no definitive plan with All-Star LHP Andrew Miller, who has been out since May 24 with right knee inflammation. Francona said the team is taking a “long-term” approach with the elite reliever, who has been on the DL twice this season. “When we get him back, we want to keep him back,” Francona said.
Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco shut out Chicago with 11 strikeouts in seven innings in his last outing. He’ll make his third start this season against the Twins, who will counter with Fernando Romero.
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