Kluber hurls complete game in 5-1 victory over Royals
Tribe takes the four-game series against K.C. with solid starting pitching
CLEVELAND—It was a day for smiles in the Indians series finale with Kansas City Thursday afternoon.
And yes, even for Corey Kluber (2-2, 3.90 ERA), who had himself a career day on the mound in his fifth start. Tossing his first big league complete game victory, the right-hander led the Tribe past the Royals, 5-1 to win the four-game series.
“That was really fun to watch,” manager Terry Francona said. “On a day game after a night game with a quick turnaround, to not even warm somebody up, that’s rare.”
Kluber was simply dominant in his complete game effort, allowing just one unearned run on four hits and striking out a career-high 11. He pounded the strike zone the entire game, throwing 75 of his 101 pitches for strikes, without yielding a walk.
“He had everything working,” Francona said. “His fastball going both ways, his changeup, location and he worked ahead and threw a ton of strikes.”
The Tribe starter induced 12 groundball outs, hurling 22 of 31 first pitch strikes.
“For the most part I was executing with all four pitches,” Kluber said. “I think I stayed down in the zone for the most part and was able to get a lot of groundballs. Not just throwing strikes but quality strikes.”
Over his last four starts, the right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA, giving the Indians a quality outing in three of them.
“Anytime you’re working ahead, it’s going to keep your pitch count down and guys are probably not putting a lot of good swings on the ball. We started off really aggressive with the fastball and cutter, and then as they starting getting aggressive the third, fourth time through, we started mixing it up a little more and kept them off balance.”
Kluber becomes the first Cleveland pitcher since Lenny Barker to toss a complete game without issuing a walk while striking out 11. Tribe fans will certainly remember that game, as it was Barker’s perfect game back in 1981.
After collecting just one hit through the first four innings, the Indians offense broke through scoring five runs on five hits against Royals starter Bruce Chen (1-2, 7.45 ERA) in the fifth.
Up against a 0-for-16 streak at the plate, Carlos Santana led off the inning with a double, before Michael Brantley singled home the third baseman on a RBI single one pitch later. The knock gave Brantley a team-high 19 RBI, as he continues to be a force in the middle of the Tribe lineup.
A walk to Ryan Raburn and another base-hit by Yan Gomes set up Indians bats to do more damage off the lefty Chen. Right fielder David Murphy continued his dominance with runners in scoring position, lining a two-run single down the left field line to give his team a three run lead.
“He’s got such good hands that he just he either stays alive, or he’ll waffle one down there.” Francona said. "Guys that use the whole field are going to get more hits. You can’t defend everything.”
Murphy has capitalized when it’s mattered most, now hitting .533 (8-for-15) on the year with RISP.
Two batters later, Asdrubal Cabrera capped off the five run inning with a two-run double putting Cleveland up, 5-0. The shortstop went 2-for-4 at the plate Thursday afternoon, notching his second straight multi-hit game.
“He’s the epitome of a crafty lefty,” Francona said. “Crooked numbers are great. Sometimes little things lead to big things and we strung our hits together.”
For a team that has struggled with runners in scoring position, they have cashed in of late. Over the last two games, Tribe hitters are 7-for-20 (.350) with RISP. In their previous five, they were just 6-for-36 (.167) in that category.
The only blip defensively came on an error by first baseman Nick Swisher in the seventh inning. It proved costly for Kluber, giving the Royals their only run of the ballgame on a Mike Moustakas RBI single.
It was the Indians sixth error in their last four games.
Despite being unable to toss the shutout, the day itself still belonged to the 28 year-old Kluber, who improves to 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA in the last two seasons against K.C.
"He’s not the loudest guy in the clubhouse, but there’s a fire there he competes.” Francona said. “One of the nice things about the way he pitches is it gives me a reason to brag about him, which I love. He wants to be really good and goes at it the right way.”
“For a kid that doesn’t have a ton of time in the major leagues, he’s a good pro.”
Another win quietly gives Cleveland (11-11) their fourth victory in their last five ballgames.
Up next for Indians: The Tribe will look to take their momentum with them to the West Coast, as they open up a three-game weekend series with the San Francisco Giants. Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (0-2, 7.31 ERA) takes the ball in his fifth start against Giants veteran Tim Hudson (2-1, 2.40 ERA) in the series opener Friday at 10:05 p.m. ET.
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Not extending Kluber this winter could turn out to be very costly. What an outing!