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Late Austin Jackson homer pushes Cleveland Indians over Tampa Bay Rays

By
Greg Auman, The Sports Xchange
Cleveland Indians Austin Jackson (L) plays the ball off the ball as Bradley Zimmer comes in for back up on a ball hit by Minnesota Twins Jason Castro in the second inning at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on June 25, 2017. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI
Cleveland Indians Austin Jackson (L) plays the ball off the ball as Bradley Zimmer comes in for back up on a ball hit by Minnesota Twins Jason Castro in the second inning at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on June 25, 2017. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays' dreadful homestand is over, with one more tough loss Sunday as Cleveland's Austin Jackson hit a solo home run in the eighth inning to give the Indians a 4-3 win at Tropicana Field.

"Good riddance to the Indians and their pitchers," Rays manager Kevin Cash said after dropping three of four to Cleveland, including two shutouts. "We are sick of seeing them."

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The Indians (63-52) saw a 3-1 lead disappear on Steven Souza's two-run home run in the sixth, but Jackson's fourth home run of the season, off reliever Tommy Hunter (2-3), put Cleveland back ahead.

Tampa Bay (59-60) found some offense after five shutouts in the previous eight games, but its bullpen couldn't keep the score tied late.

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Corey Kluber (11-3) got the win, striking out nine batters in seven innings of four-hit baseball, continuing a dominant three-game run for Indians pitchers. Cody Allen pitched the ninth for his 21st save of the season. The Rays got the tying run to second base with two outs, but Adeiny Hechavarria struck out to end the game.

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"It's nice to pick (Kluber) up -- not that he pitched bad, he gave up three," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "When they got that two-run homer, it was nice to see our offense, for two games in a row now, come back and score when he was out of the game. If anybody deserves it, it's him."

Neither team had a hit until the third inning, when the Rays had three, with Evan Longoria's RBI single scoring Jesus Sucre for a 1-0 lead.

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Cleveland jumped ahead in the fourth on RBI doubles by Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana for a 2-1 lead, then added a solo home run by Edwin Encarnacion -- his 24th -- to make it 3-1 in the sixth.

"It's great having Bruce behind me," Encarnacion said. "We played for almost a year together (with the Cincinnati Reds), and of course to have a player with the makeup and the quality that he has has been tremendous."

Souza tied the game in the sixth with his 25th home run, off Kluber. The Indians nearly went ahead in the bottom of the seventh, but a perfect throw from Souza in right field off a Francisco Lindor single got home in time to tag Santana out at the plate.

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The Rays had come in fresh off the worst eight-game stretch in franchise history, scoring only eight total runs, with five shutout losses within the current homestand.

"We played probably our worst baseball down the stretch and we were in almost every game we played," Souza said. "It's going to turn the corner, we believe it's going to turn the corner. There's still a lot of time left. We're going to be all right."

The Rays now go to Toronto for a four-game series, while the Indians go to Boston on Monday for a single game that was postponed by rain Aug. 2, then to Minnesota for a three-game series to continue an 11-game road trip.

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NOTES: The Rays made a roster move after Sunday's game, sending LHP Jose Alvarado from the bullpen to Triple-A Durham, with a corresponding move to be announced later. Alvarado has a 4.76 ERA in 26 relief appearances, holding opponents to a .214 average. ... Rays 3B Evan Longoria, who left Friday's game with a left thumb contusion and sat out Saturday's game, was back in the lineup at third Sunday. He drove in the game's first run in the third inning and scored after a walk in the sixth. ... OF Kevin Kiermaier went 0-for-4 with a run scored on Saturday in his first rehab game with Class A Charlotte. He has missed two months with a hip injury. ... The Indians now have 11 shutouts this season, most in the American League and one behind the Dodgers for the most in the majors.

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