Baseball / Sports

Axford's blown save leads to 4-3 White Sox win over Indians

CLEVELAND -- Starting pitcher Corey Kluber and George Kottaras each had historic days for the Cleveland Indians, but those positive vibes were wiped out in the ninth inning in a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

The Indians (13-18) began the ninth inning leading 3-1 after Kluber allowed only one run in eight innings pitched. Closer John Axford opened the inning with a walk, a strikeout and a second walk to bring the go-ahead run to the plate with one out. That was Dayan Viciedo, who hit a three-run, opposite-field home run to put the White Sox ahead 4-3.

In the bottom half of the ninth, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was the Indians' last hope with the tying run (third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall) on second and two outs. Cabrera, though, struck out for the third time in the game and stranded his fifth runner.

It's Axford's second blown save of the year. Both have come against the White Sox (15-17). It was the walks that led to the home run, and the walks that Axford knows are bad signs for a closer.

"You want to challenge guys and have them put the ball in play," Axford said. "Those walks, putting guys on, giving them free passes, that's something I definitely need to cut out. Today, I just couldn't find it."

In Kluber's eight innings, he struck out a career-high 13 batters compared to only three hits and one earned run allowed. A home run by Jose Abreu, his 12th of the season, was the lone mistake.

At one point, he struck out seven consecutive hitters, breaking an Indians franchise record that was previously held by Bob Feller, Bartolo Colon, Chuck Finley and Mitch Talbot.

"Just one of those things that happens when you make good pitches," Kluber said. "I got in a groove there in the middle of the game. ... For the most part, (I have been) just pounding the strike zone, working ahead of guys, keeping pressure on them."

Cleveland manager Terry Francona said Kluber did "everything" right on Sunday.

"He's so aggressive," Francona said. "Ball's got late movement. He's just got a lot of weapons."

Kluber was at 110 pitches after the eighth inning, and Francona said he didn't consider leaving him in for the ninth inning. Kluber said he trusts Francona's judgment.

The Indians' offense, meanwhile, left 12 men on base (nearly half by Cabrera's doing). The sole positives were Chisenhall and Kottaras. Chisenhall went 3-for-4 with an RBI single.

Kottaras had his contract purchased on Saturday to fill in for Yan Gomes while he's on paternity leave. All he did in his Indians debut Sunday was homer in his first two at-bats -- actually his first two swings -- to right field. He's the first player in franchise history to hit a home run in his first two at-bats with the team. He's also the first player in baseball to do it since Jeremy Giambi (Jason's brother) in May of 2002 for Philadelphia.

"I wasn't planning on it," Kottaras said. "I wanted to go out there and help out in any way I could. I felt good at the plate."

But as dominant as Kluber was through eight innings, and as productive as Kottaras was when there weren't any expectations for him, it was all erased by Viciedo's home run to right field.

"(Axford) left a ball out over the plate that got caught up in the one place where the wind's blowing out," Francona said. "You certainly want to adjust and get better. But you also have to have a little bit of amnesia, come back tomorrow and get a save."

(c)2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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