CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber’s fastball had late movement. He had command, control and that unmistakable presence.
One game after a horrible start, Kluber looked much better — like, well, himself.
Kluber bounced back from one of his worst outings in recent years by working seven innings and Carlos Santana celebrated his U.S. citizenship with three hits, leading Cleveland over the Atlanta Braves 8-4 in the opener of a doubleheader on Saturday.
“I thought that was way closer to the Klubes that we’ve seen and really encouraging moving forward,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Kluber (2-2) shook off a rough first inning and allowed four runs and five hits. The right-hander didn’t get out of the third inning in his previous start, when he walked a career-high five and gave up two homers in a no-decision against Kansas City.
Kluber credited some subtle changes to his mechanics in getting back on track.
“Not really any one thing, just kind of getting back to the way I feel,” said Kluber, who retired 11 straight before before giving up two homers in the seventh. “It’s hard to necessarily to put it in words, but I know what feels right and what feels wrong, so just trying to kind of get out of my own way a little bit and try to recreate what I know feels right and what allows me to make pitches I need to.”
Max Moroff homered and had two RBIs for Cleveland, which won its fourth straight.
Greg Allen hit a run-scoring double off starter Julio Teheran (2-2) and the Indians scored six runs in the fifth — all with two outs. Teheran fell to 6-13 in interleague games.
Brian McCann and Matt Joyce connected for back-to-back homers off Kluber in the seventh. The Braves, who have lost four in a row, had just six hits.
“Kluber was tough,” McCann said. “His ball was dancing all over the place and he was keeping us off balance.”
It was the first meeting between the teams since 2016, and the series opener was pushed back a day because of rain.
Before the game, the Indians activated All-Star Francisco Lindor, who missed their first 18 games while recovering from a sprained ankle. Lindor was to start at shortstop in Game 2, but the Indians plan to use him as an occasional designated hitter while easing him back.
Kluber settled in after a 28-pitch first and looked much more like the two-time Cy Young Award winner who has anchored Cleveland’s staff for years. He also benefited from the Indians’ biggest inning this season.
With the score tied 2-2 and two outs in the fifth, Teheran needed only to put away Allen, but the speedy center fielder, who came to the plate batting .033, pulled his double into the right-field corner. On his way to first, Allen excitedly pumped a fist before hitting bag and hustling into second as Santana scored.
On Friday, Santana, who was born in the Dominican Republic, took the oath to be an American.
The Indians added five more runs in the inning to give Kluber more than enough cushion.
Moroff, about to lose a starting job with Lindor returning, tied it 2-2 in the fourth with his first AL homer. He came in batting .077 before hitting a 2-2 pitch into the seats beyond the right-field wall. Moroff homered three times in 26 games last season for Pittsburgh, which traded him to Cleveland in November.
Entering the doubleheader, the Braves and Indians had only played 12 times. However, the clubs share a postseason history as Cleveland’s last World Series title in 1948 came against the Braves, who were then located in Milwaukee. Atlanta won its lone Series title in 1995 over the Indians.
OLD FACES, NEW PLACE
One long-time Indians player came back, so did a short-timer.
Josh Tomlin spent nine seasons with Cleveland before signing as a free agent with Atlanta this winter. The right-hander received a warm ovation when he came into the pitch the eighth.
Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson finished last season with the Indians, hitting .280 with three homers and seven RBIs in 16 games. The 2015 AL MVP with Toronto agreed to a $23 million, one-year contract with Atlanta in November.
Braves: Star LF Ronald Acuña Jr. stayed in after being hit on the left elbow by Kluber in the third. Acuña also slid awkwardly while catching Allen’s sinking liner in the same inning.
Indians: Injured starter Mike Clevinger has elected not to undergo surgery on an upper back strain, a procedure that could sideline him for three months. Francona said the right-hander will undergo another MRI and the results will determine when he can resume throwing.