The Indians got another high quality start from Corey Kluber on Tuesday as the Cleveland ace limited the Chicago White Sox to just one run over six innings and the bullpen did the rest in a 3-1 victory.
Kluber did not get nearly the run support that he received in his last outing, but he made the handful of runs stand up while containing Chicago, which struck for just one run of damage on a solo home run at the end of Kluber’s outing.
The Indians started the scoring in the bottom of the first. An aggressive Jason Kipnis jumped on the first pitch he saw from White Sox All-Star pitcher Jose Quintana and doubled to center. He scored one batter later as his double play partner Francisco Lindor doubled him home with a shot the opposite way for the 1-0 lead.
Kluber gave up doubles in each of the first three innings, but stranded four White Sox runners in scoring position and five total as his teammates scored him a second run in the bottom of the frame. Rajai Davis walked on four straight pitches and picked off second base, his 33rd of the season, but only as a result of Quintana having him picked off of first. An elusive Davis evaded the tag at second, which would loom large. Kipnis struck out and Lindor flied to right to bring Mike Napoli to the plate and the Indians’ leading RBI man delivered with a shot into the left field corner. Davis scored on the play, but Napoli was out trying to stretch it to a double. The run gave the Tribe a 2-0 advantage.
Kluber allowed just a walk in the fourth and a single in the fifth, the latter of which was erased on a double play. A former rival in the twilight of his career struck through in the sixth, however, as Justin Morneau jumped on Kluber quickly with a laser to the seats in right to make it a 2-1 game.
After stranding runners in scoring position in the fourth and sixth innings, the Indians finally got the job done again in the seventh. Former Indians reliever Matt Albers came on for Quintana and promptly allowed a double to Roberto Perez, who entered the game hitting .089 with two extra base hits on the season. He moved to third on a groundout by Davis before Kipnis singled him home against reliever Dan Jennings to provide a valuable insurance run.
The tandem of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen did the rest, facing the minimum over three innings with a pair of strikeouts. Miller earned his 20th hold, while Allen saved game 23.
The Indians (68-49) are back up to a season-high 19 games above the .500 mark. Their lead in the AL Central improved to six games with the win and the loss by the Detroit Tigers against the Kansas City Royals. They are now 8-2 against Chicago (56-62) this season and have won seven straight against their divisional foe.
Kluber (13-8, 3.15 ERA) has not only pitched like the staff ace, but he has flexed some of the old Cy Young muscle in his recent tear on the mound. Since a loss in Toronto to start his month of July, Kluber has gone 5-0 in seven starts with a 1.80 ERA. In that stretch, he has hurdled his teammates to take over the lead in wins on the club and has steadily hacked away at his ERA.
In six innings on Tuesday, Kluber allowed just the one run on seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. There was traffic for the right-hander on the bases, but he kept his composure to win his fourth straight start.
“It wasn’t the smoothest outing,” said Kluber after the game. “They had a lot of base runners, but I did a good job of, when I needed to, making pitches.”
Miller went two innings in relief for the Indians for the second straight appearance on Tuesday, throwing 12 of 16 pitches for strikes. He struck out one in his efficient outing.
He has now worked eight and two-thirds innings in an Indians uniform, striking out eleven, walking one, and allowing just three hits and two runs while earning a save and three holds.
“It’s one thing to have his stuff because his stuff’s really good, but he doesn’t mess around,” said manager Terry Francona. “He speeds them up with the breaking ball. He keeps firing strikes.”
NAPOLI KNOWS HOW TO PARTY
Napoli made it 16 straight games with a hit in Tuesday’s win, driving in what would prove to be the decisive run in the third inning with his RBI single. He is now 25-for-58 (.431) during his hitting streak with seven homers, five doubles, and 17 RBI. His season batting average has climbed from .240 prior to the game on July 30 to .266 following Tuesday’s win.
In addition to improving to 8-2 against an AL Central foe, the win pushed the Indians record in the division to 32-16 this season.
The Indians won 32 divisional games in all of 2015.
NO SUPPORT FOR QUINTANA
The White Sox left-hander got some respect this season when he was named to the AL All-Star team as an injury replacement in July, but he still cannot get the run support needed to have better results in terms of wins and losses.
Quintana (9-9, 2.85) took his first loss in more than a month and a half despite the quality outing. He went six innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts. He was thwarted again in his attempt to earn win number ten, something he has yet to do in his five-year Major League career.
He has finished each of the last three seasons with exactly nine wins.
Todd Frazier saw plenty of pitches on the night, but could not do anything productive with them.
The White Sox slugging third baseman was 0-for-4 in the game and struck out all four times. He struck out looking in each of his first two at bats against Kluber before flailing away on strike three in the sixth. He fared little better against Allen in the ninth, working the count full but cutting and missing on all three strikes in his at bat to lead off the frame.
HEADING TO CHARLOTTE
Following the game, the White Sox optioned right-handed pitcher Carson Fulmer to Triple-A Charlotte.
It will be Carlos Carrasco (8-6, 3.21) and Anthony Ranaudo (1-1, 8.71) Wednesday evening when the Indians and White Sox meet for game two of this three-game series.
Carrasco was strong in his only start against the White Sox earlier in the year, giving up two runs over seven and one-third innings in a no-decision. Ranaudo will get the recall from Triple-A Charlotte, filling the void in the rotation previously occupied by recently injured Miguel Gonzalez. The 26-year-old 6’7” right-hander has made one start for the White Sox this season and two relief appearances with the Texas Rangers earlier in the year.
Follow along with all of the action on Wednesday beginning at 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer