CLEVELAND -- After a poor outing his last time out, Indians ace Corey Kluber got extended rest prior to taking the mound Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
It produced positive results for the two-time Cy Young award winner -- and the Indians.
Kluber, who didn’t make it out of the second inning in a loss to Tampa Bay on Sept. 10, allowed three runs and struck out 11 over eight innings to help Cleveland to a series-opening 5-3 victory over the White Sox.
En route to notching his career-high 19th win, Kluber eclipsed the 200-inning and 200-strikeout plateau for the fifth straight season.
“There’s a reason we talk about him, because he’s one of the very best,” manager Terry Francona said of Kluber, who allowed only a hit and walk over the first five innings. “What was it, five years ago when he won his first Cy Young award? I remember the one thing I said was, ‘he hasn’t done it over and over yet,’ because he was young. Now, he’s done it over and over and over, and it’s every bit as impressive.
“Early on, they were trying -- he had two six-pitch innings -- they were trying to hit the first straight one they saw. He’s getting that feel for his breaking ball back and it gets exciting.”
Kluber recorded his sixth double-digit strikeout game of the season (45th of his career). His five seasons of at least 200 strikeouts is tied with Hall of Famer Bob Feller for the second-most in franchise history behind Sam McDowell’s six. Kluber is the only Cleveland pitcher to accomplish as much over five straight seasons.
Kluber joined Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco with 200 strikeouts, making the Indians only the fourth team in major league history to have three pitchers reach the mark in the same season -- the first since the Tigers in 2013.
Mike Clevinger has 196 strikeouts and is on the verge of helping his team become the first team in MLB history with four pitchers turning the trick.
Not surprisingly, the stoic Kluber isn’t impressed by another top-shelf season numbers-wise.
“It’s just being able to stay healthy and make starts and log innings,” he said. “Hopefully, that results in giving the team a chance to win. I’m not concerned with what specific statistics are. It’s just being able to be reliable and take the ball when it’s your turn.”
Kluber was backed by early support, with the Indians scoring twice in the second inning -- the first time on Cleveland’s first hit, a double from Melky Cabrera.
The Indians led 5-0 after Jason Kipnis led off the fifth with his 16th home run and Yandy Diaz scored two more on a one-out single.
Donaldson, who has missed most of the season with a calf injury, scored from first on Cabrera’s two-base hit in the second.
“I think when we saw him work out, we knew that he had worked really hard,” Francona said of Donaldson’s rehab process. “Just try to use common sense and not over do it too quick. Everybody wants, myself included, you want to see him play, but I think we’ve tried to manage it pretty well. Pretty soon, we’ll be able to turn him loose. We gotta keep getting him some reps, because what he can do we’ve all seen.”
Andrew Miller came on for Kluber to start the ninth and was nearly unhittable.
He struck out the first three batters he faced, but one reached on a passed ball, before Tim Anderson dropped in a bloop single to right field. Miller got Daniel Palka to ground to third for the final out.
“My arm feels as good as it’s felt in a long time,” said Miller, who recorded his second save. “I think that the knee is kind of something I’m not really thinking about, which is exactly where we want it. The idea is to kind of check a couple boxes.”
“I thought it was his best outing yet, the best stuff,” Francona said of Miller. “He had that strikeout that was kind of a wild pitch or whatever you call it, so he had to pitch out of it with runners on, but I thought it was by far his best stuff.
“That also gets exciting. We’ve been saying we might not have our best team until the last week of the year. That’d be a heck of a time to get it.”
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