CLEVELAND -- Toronto was no match for Mike Clevinger, who was stopped Sunday only by upper back tightness that forced him from the game after five scoreless innings.
Clevinger struck out 10 and allowed one hit to lead the Cleveland Indians over the struggling Blue Jays 3-1 for a four-game sweep.
Clevinger felt the back tighten up on his second pitch of the fifth. He breezed through the inning with two strikeouts and a groundout, then mentioned the issue after reaching the dugout.
He tried to persuade pitching coach Carl Willis and the team's medical staff to leave him in the game.
"They made the right call," Clevinger said. "It's not worth it right now, this early. It's just being safe."
Clevinger (1-0) has pitched 12 scoreless innings over his first two starts, striking out 22.
He retired his first nine hitters, walked Socrates Brito leading off the fourth, then gave up a double to Freddy Galvis. Clevinger fanned Randal Grichuk, Rowdy Tellez and Teoscar Hernández in order, all swinging. He threw 75 pitches in all.
"Everything was working," Clevinger said. "That's why it was so hard for me to accept it. I was rolling."
Clevinger plans to take his next turn, which should be at Kansas City next weekend.
Indians pitchers struck out 16, raising their three-game total to 57.
"That's a momentum killer for the other teams, especially when you're seeing your guys go up just to walk right back to the dugout over and over again for a series, that has to wear on you mentally at some point," Clevinger said. "It's good to have the staff to be loaded like this."
"I'm not going to insult your intelligence," he said. "Our approach has not been really good," manager Charlie Montoyo said. "It's been pretty bad. But I promise you we're going to work on it."
Carlos Santana, reacquired during the offseason, had an RBI double in the first and is hitting .419 with a 1.067 OPS. Tyler Naquin had three hits, including a run-scoring single in the first. Jose Ramirez added an RBI double in the fifth.
Brad Hand got five outs for his fourth save, completing a three-hitter. Pinch-hitter Lourdes Gurriel grounded into an inning-ending double play in the eighth.
Marcus Stroman (0-2) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings with six strikeouts. Danny Jansen had an RBI single in the eighth off Adam Cimber.
HOW ABOUT SOME HELP?
Toronto has scored two runs in Stroman's three starts. He is winless, giving up five runs in 18 2/3 innings.
"It's still early," Stroman said. "The tides will hopefully chance soon. We're just struggling a bit, but that's just baseball."
ON THE WAY?
Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, signed to a minor league contract by the Indians late in spring training, can opt-out if he's not added to the major league roster by April 20.
Gonzalez is 4 for 12 in three games at Triple-A Columbus, but manager Terry Francona isn't concerned with statistics.
"I don't think we're evaluating him as much as trying to get him ready," Francona said. "Whatever his batting average is nobody's going to care come July or August."
Blue Jays: Justin Smoak has a sore neck and was scratched from the original lineup for the third time in the series. Smoak was 1 for 5 with a double Saturday, but couldn't play in the finale.
Indians: 2B Jason Kipnis had a scheduled day off at his rehab assignment for Triple-A Columbus. He strained his right calf late in spring training. Kipnis hopes to return during the upcoming road trip.
Blue Jays: RHP Matt Shoemaker (2-0, 0.00 ERA) started Tuesday at Fenway Park, where LHP Chris Sale (0-2, 8.00 ERA) takes the mound in Boston's home opener.
Indians: RHP Corey Kluber (0-2, 5.23 ERA) starts for Cleveland and RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-0, 0.66 ERA) for the Tigers in the opener of a three-game series at Detroit.
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