CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber made his first start since shaving the long beard he had sported for much of the season.
It was far from a hairy situation on the mound, as well, for the right-hander in the series opener against Tampa Bay at Progressive Field on Friday night.
Coming off a subpar effort in his previous start against last-place Kansas City, Kluber was back in Cy Young form, tossing seven shutout innings and striking out eight in a 3-0 victory.
He allowed a single on his first pitch, then walked the next batter, but only surrendered one more hit — a single in the fourth inning — and retired the last 11 he faced, six on strikeouts.
“I thought Klubes was really crisp. Even some of his two-seam (fastballs) were 92-93 (mph),” manager Terry Francona said. “His breaking ball was better. I thought he was really good.”
“You know, the first (walk), I just sprayed those four (pitches),” Kluber said. “You just try to flush it and kind of get back to what you’d like to do and try to find your delivery. I was a little bit more on time (with my breaking ball). I’ll look at it (today) and see if that was actually the case or not, but I feel like (my) stuff timed up a little better tonight.”
The Indians went scoreless over the first six innings against right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who didn’t allow a hit until Melky Cabrera’s two-out single in the fifth.
“He’s got a breaking ball and a fastball,” Francona said of Glasnow. “Coming into the game, he had walked almost five per nine (innings) and tonight he was filling up the strike zone with really good stuff.
“I thought we played a really good game because they pitched really well.”
Edwin Encarnacion’s solo shot to center with one out in the seventh broke a scoreless tie. It was his 29th home run of the season.
“Edwin had three pretty good swings tonight,” Francona said. “He hit a breaking ball his last at-bat, but he had pretty good swings. I think our guys were just trying to see the one that was straight before they got in a hole.”
Since leaving the disabled list Aug. 22, Encarnacion is batting .323 (10-for-31) with four homers and 11 RBIs. He has driven in at least one run in five consecutive games.
“It’s better when you’re healthy and you feel good,” Encarnacion said. “It’s not gonna be easy, but it’s gonna feel better. So, I feel better. I feel great.”
Struggling right-hander Cody Allen pitched for the third straight day — the second since allowing the game-winning run in a loss to Minnesota — and was effective in the eighth.
He retired the side in order, striking out the last two.
“I thought he looked tremendous,” Francona said. “It was his third night in a row, but we’re trying to get him to where he wants to be and I thought tonight, he was Cody. He was efficient, he threw his breaking ball and I’m sure he feels really good. He should. He’s worked hard. He’s gotten to a good place. Now we’ve got to keep him there.”
Allen liked his performance.
“I’d definitely say that I’m a guy that the more I get out there, the better feel I have with adjustments,” Allen said. “I was very pleased to get out there again tonight and obviously happy with the result, happy with the win.
“Kluber did an unbelievable job. When you come in after a guy’s pitched like that — that team wasn’t seeing the ball really well. They were pretty off-balance because of what Kluber did and that’s a team that’s played really, really well lately. For him to go seven shutout (innings) like that was impressive.”
Left-hander Brad Hand pitched the ninth and notched his second save in two days, retiring the top three hitters in Tampa Bay’s lineup in order. It was Hand’s seventh save for Cleveland and his 31st overall.
The surprising Rays lost for just the second time in 11 games.