In his final start of June, Corey Kluber continued his incredible run since his return from the disabled list by striking out 12 batters and scattering three hits over eight innings as the Cleveland Indians took the series from the Texas Rangers with a 5-1 win on Thursday afternoon.
Any arguments that Kluber is not an ace are silly and senseless. After a rough showing against the Rangers in his Opening Day debut, Kluber silenced the big swinging Texas bats, limiting them to just one solo shot while he put up an Indians record-tying performance with his fourth consecutive game with double digit strikeouts.
The Rangers took an early lead, using the home run ball as they had throughout the four-game series from Progressive Field. After Kluber struck out the first two batters of the ball game, Nomar Mazara put Texas on the scoreboard, sending a two-strike homer over the wall in right-center to give the Rangers an early lead.
Andrew Cashner returned from the disabled list prior to the game for Texas and looked good in the early going. Michael Brantley doubled with two down in the first, but Cashner got Edwin Encarnacion to ground out to first on one pitch to end the inning.
A leadoff single by Rougned Odor looked to set up the Rangers nicely in the second inning with the meat of the order coming up. Instead, each of the next three batters struck out swinging as Texas stranded Odor at second after his stolen base.
The Indians went down in order in the second, but jumped on top in their next turn in the third. Yan Gomes started the inning against Cashner with a single to center. Bradley Zimmer legged out an infield single and both runners moved up on a wild pitch before Jason Kipnis flied to right for the first out. Francisco Lindor tied the game with a grounder to second that pushed Gomes across to make it 1-1. Brantley walked to bring up Encarnacion and with the slugger at the plate, Cashner threw one that got away from catcher Robinson Chirinos. Zimmer took off from third and with a unique slide, evaded the tag of the Rangers starter to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. Encarnacion would fly to center to end the inning.
After walking Joey Gallo to start the third, Kluber locked himself in on the mound. With his first lead of the game in the fourth, he retired the side in order quickly and did the same in the fifth, striking out a pair while throwing just eight strikes in the inning. He would extend his streak to eleven straight retired by striking out two more in the sixth to give him nine on the afternoon.
The Indians knocked Cashner out of the game in the home half of the sixth by stringing together four straight hits to start the inning. Brantley doubled and Encarnacion muscled him home with a broken bat shot to right to make it 3-1. Cashner, who was hit with some of Encarnacion’s bat shrapnel, remained in the game. He gave up a double to right to Jose Ramirez to put two in scoring position for pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall, who came on to face right-hander Nick Martinez. He, too, would deliver as he drove in his eighth and ninth runs of the season from a pinch-hitting role as he doubled to right to make it 5-1 Indians.
It was more than enough for Kluber, who struck out Mazara to start the next inning to give him ten on the day to match Bob Feller’s record for consecutive starts with ten strikeouts or more at four straight, dating back to 1938-39. He is the third pitcher this season to strike out ten or more in at least four straight outings. Adrian Beltre reached on an infield single for the third hit of the day for the Rangers before a fielder’s choice and a strikeout ended the inning.
Kluber returned for an eighth and final inning, fittingly striking out the final batter that he would face to give him a dozen on the day.
The win moved the Indians to 42-36 on the season. They dominated the Rangers (39-40) in the season series between the two clubs, posting a 7-1 record against one of the best of the AL West.
Kluber (7-2, 3.02 ERA) earned the win to complete a perfect month of June at 4-0 in six starts. The outing may very well have secured for him the AL’s Pitcher of the Month Award for June, as he finished up the month with 64 strikeouts in 43 innings of work while making six quality starts, all of which have come after his return from the disabled list. In his stretch of dominance, he has allowed just six earned runs and walked just six batters while allowing 20 hits.
He went eight on Thursday, allowing a run on three hits with a walk and 12 strikeouts. Of his 111 pitches, 21 were swung on and missed.
The line for Cashner (3-7, 3.87) was deceiving as he pitched better early than the final numbers indicate. He ended his day with five-plus innings pitched after facing the first three batters in the sixth and was charged with five runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
Brantley reached base safely in all four trips to the batter’s box, hitting two doubles and drawing two walks while scoring a run. Chisenhall was 1-for-2 with his big two-run double to break the game open. When the game ended, he was tied for the MLB lead in RBI as a pinch-hitter. His 43 RBI on the season lead the Indians, despite playing more than 20 fewer games than his other teammates on the top of that leaderboard.
The Indians will get back to action on Friday night as they start a four-game series in three days with the Detroit Tigers. Josh Tomlin (4-9, 6.09) will get the start for the Tribe, while right-hander Anibal Sanchez (0-0, 6.75) will go for the Tigers.
First pitch from Comerica Park is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
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