Corey Kluber continued his dominance of Major League Baseball in the month of May, as his seven strong innings on the mound and 12 strikeouts, coupled with a four-run fifth inning by his offensive teammates, gave the Cleveland Indians a 5-2 victory on Friday night over the Colorado Rockies.
The win by the Indians (25-30) ended their four-game losing streak and extended their home winning streak at Progressive Field to four straight. The five runs scored tonight matched their entire scoring support provided during their three-game sweep at the hands of the White Sox in Chicago during the week.
Cleveland jumped on the scoreboard in the first against Colorado starting pitcher Juan Nicasio. Michael Bourn singled to center but, after a strikeout by Asdrubal Cabrera, was erased on the front end of a fielder’s choice groundout by Michael Brantley. A single to center by Jason Kipnis moved Brantley to third and Lonnie Chisenhall flared a single to shallow left with two outs to score the Indians left fielder and give Cleveland an early 1-0 advantage.
The Rockies finally got in the hit and the run column against Kluber in the fourth. Corey Dickerson doubled to right to lead off the inning. After a groundout by Troy Tulowitzki, the dangerous Carlos Gonzalez launched his eighth home run of the year to the seats in right field on a changeup left over the plate. The blast gave Colorado a 2-1 lead.
The Indians’ offense erupted in the bottom half of the fifth after Kluber escaped a two-on, two-out jam on the mound. David Murphy slapped a pitch out of the zone into right field for a double. He moved to third on a sacrifice fly from Jesus Aguilar that went all the way to the bullpen wall in center field and narrowly missed becoming his first Major League home run. Bourn lined a single back up the middle between the legs of Nicasio with the infield drawn in to tie the game at two.
On a 1-1 pitch to the next batter and with Bourn in motion, Cabrera hit a drive to deep right field that cleared the fence for a two-run shot, giving the Indians the lead back, 4-2. Brantley followed with a double to the gap in right-center, moved to third on a groundout to first by Kipnis, and scored the Indians’ fifth run on a double by Chisenhall just by the glove of the Colorado third baseman Charlie Culberson, ending the night of Nicasio.
Nicasio (5-3) ended the month of May on a bad note after entering the night’s action with a 3-1 mark in the month with a 2.10 ERA. He was coming off of a two-hit effort in six scoreless innings against Atlanta his last time out. He finished with four and two-thirds innings pitched and allowed five earned runs on nine hits. He struck out two and did not walk a batter while throwing 100 pitches.
Kluber (6-3) exited the game after seven and one-third innings in the books and another dominating start on the mound. He allowed two earned runs on five hits, struck out 12, and walked one on 107 pitches. Eight of the 12 K’s were swinging. He had 14 different 0-2 or 1-2 counts. He struck out at least one batter in each of the first seven innings.
“It’s fun to write his name in every fifth day,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “He just continues to get better. That lineup…you see the numbers up on the board, but they’re a very difficult team to strike out. They do a really good job of putting the ball in play. There’s a bunch of crooked numbers up there, so what he did was that much more impressive.”
With his 12 strikeouts on the night, Kluber extended his streak of games with at least eight strikeouts to six straight, one for each start in the month of May, and took over the Major League lead in strikeouts. It is the longest streak of its kind by an Indians right-handed starter since Bob Feller had nine straight such games in 1946. His 60 strikeouts in May are the most strikeouts by an Indians pitcher in a calendar month since Dennis Eckersley struck out 60 batters in September of 1976. He is the first Indians pitcher with 12 or more strikeouts in at least two games in a season since Bartolo Colon struck out 12-plus in three starts in 2000.
“I just think strikeouts are a byproduct of making good pitches,” said Kluber. “It’s not going out there trying to strike guys out, it’s just executing pitches. I don’t really think of myself as a certain kind of pitcher. I’m not trying to categorize myself as anything. I’m just trying to go out there and pitch, really.”
“His stuff was so dominant tonight. It’s not just stuff, it’s location,” said Francona. “When he comes in, he came in hard. He’s good. He’s going to stay good and get better.”
Kluber averaged more than seven innings per May start and put together six consecutive quality starts. He ends May with a 2.09 ERA for the month. He is now 5-0 in five career interleague starts.
“When he gets out there on the mound right now, it’s really special,” said Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. “Last year he went out there and really figured out that he could throw the ball over the plate. His intention was to throw the ball over the plate with all of his pitches. This year, he is really attacking the hitter’s weaknesses as well. He knows the guys in the lineup that he can just stick with his strengths and he knows the guys in the lineup that he needs to probably attack their weaknesses a little better. He’s got four pitches he can throw at any time to do that. He’s tremendous.”
Cody Allen came on to work the ninth and earned his second save of the season with a pair of strikeouts.
With his first inning single, Bourn has now hit in 19 of 22 games in the month of May and has hit in 21 of his last 24 games overall.
Brantley’s double in the fifth extended his season hitting streak to 15 straight games. He now stands alone with the all-time Indians mark of consecutive games with a hit in Progressive Field with 19 straight. It is the longest home hitting streak by an Indians player since Julio Franco hit in 19 straight in 1984.
The Rockies fell to 28-26 with the loss. They have lost six of their last eight completed games. Colorado, who entered play with the fewest strikeouts in the National League this season, struck out a season-high 15 times against the best strikeout staff in the American League.
Trevor Bauer (1-2, 3.86) will make his fourth start of the season on Saturday for the Tribe. He took the loss in his last outing against Chicago after striking out eight, but giving up a pair of home runs while not finishing the fifth inning. Lefty Franklin Morales will oppose for Colorado. He has not won a decision in over a month, losing three of his last five starts. He will look to continue the Indians losing trend against left-handed starters; the Tribe is just 6-13 on the season against southpaws.
First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for the rare 3:05 PM start. Follow along with all of the action on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio or on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
Photo: AP Photo/Mark Duncan