Corey Kluber’s first career start on short rest hardly went the way he hoped.
Looking to finish off a Cleveland sweep in the AL Championship Series, the ace right-hander instead was touched up by the Toronto Blue Jays during a 5-1 defeat Tuesday in Game 4.
Pushed up to pitch on three days’ rest because of several injuries to Cleveland’s rotation, Kluber took the loss after allowing two runs and four hits in five innings.
It was the first time the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner permitted a playoff opponent to score. He had thrown 13 1/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox and Blue Jays this October in his first postseason.
“We talked to Kluber after every inning, and I thought he held his stuff really good. I thought his legs started to get a little tired,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Still one win from their first trip to the World Series since 1997, the Indians take a 3-1 ALCS lead into Game 5 on Wednesday. Rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt will start against Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada.
Merritt’s major league resume consists of 11 regular-season innings this year. He made one start, holding Kansas City to a run and three hits in five innings on Sept. 30.
Cleveland has been without starters Carlos Carrasco (broken hand) and Danny Salazar (forearm) this entire postseason. Right-hander Trevor Bauer left Game 3 after four batters when blood began dripping from his right pinkie, sliced open last week as the pitcher was repairing one of the drones he enjoys flying as a hobby.
The early exit by Bauer forced the Indians to get 25 outs from their stellar bullpen Monday night and prompted manager Terry Francona to turn to Kluber on short rest in Game 4.
If the ALCS goes the distance, he could wind up starting on three days’ rest again. Game 7 would be Saturday in Cleveland.