Corey Kluber was in midseason Cy Young form on Friday night as he shut out the Chicago White Sox, 3-0, at Guaranteed Rate Field.
There was little threat from the opposition throughout the night as Kluber was on his game. A few early runs would be more than enough for him after receiving 13 runs of support from his offense his last time out.
The Indians ace right-hander faced more than three batters in an inning just twice while firing an economical 110 pitches, striking out nine and walking two in the contest. Criticisms about an elevated number of fly ball outs by the right-hander coming into the night were erased as he got eleven outs on the ground.
His opposition across the diamond was Chicago left-hander and fellow 2016 All-Star Jose Quintana, who has had a rough go to start the season. While he gave the White Sox a quality start, he was no match for Kluber on the night and was dealt his league-leading fourth loss of the season.
It was a mistake by the White Sox battery in the third that led to the game’s first run. Former White Sox outfielder Austin Jackson led off the top half of the inning with a double to the wall in left-center, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Yan Gomes, and after a walk to Carlos Santana, was able to race home on a wild pitch by Quintana to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead on a very close play at the plate. With Santana standing at second and just one out, Quintana reached back and struck out Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley to end the inning.
Kluber allowed his first hit of the night in the bottom half of the frame, as catcher Omar Narvaez singled with one out, but was erased on a nifty double play. Jacob May lined sharply to Santana at first base. He made a diving stop, slapped the bag, and fired over to Lindor at second to tag out Narvaez on the 3-6 double play.
The Indians gave Kluber a little more wiggle room in the fourth. Edwin Encarnacion walked to start the inning but was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder to short from Jose Ramirez. Ramirez was picked off of first for the second out before Jason Kipnis drew a walk to reach base for the first time since being activated earlier in the day from the 10-day disabled list. Left-hander masher Brandon Guyer made the free pass all the more costly two pitches later, sending a drive over the wall in left-center for a key two-out, two-run home run to push the Indians’ advantage to 3-0.
It would be more than enough for Kluber. He allowed a single to Tim Anderson to start the fourth and the young infielder advanced to second base on a wild pitch, but Kluber stranded him there by striking out Melky Cabrera before inducing a pair of fly ball outs to Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier.
Kluber retired seven straight before a walk to May in the sixth, but a 6-4-3 double play ball ended the inning. The next inning, Cabrera led off the inning with a long single off of the base of the wall in right field, but Lonnie Chisenhall, who just entered for Guyer the previous half inning, played the ball perfectly and threw a strike to second base to nab the White Sox outfielder trying to stretch his hit to two bases. Kluber would allow just one more base runner the rest of the night as Narvaez walked to start the ninth but was stranded at first.
The Indians improved to 9-7 with their fourth straight win and will take the top spot in the American League Central Division all to themselves as Detroit fell to Minnesota. The Indians are now 7-3 on the road to start the season.
The White Sox dropped to 7-8 on the season and just 2-4 at home. Their offense was again chilled on the cold Chicago night, as they have scored just 14 runs over their last seven games (3-4 record in that stretch).
The complete game three-hit shutout from Kluber was his second quality start of the season; his first came in his loss to Arizona on April 9 in his second start of the season. The zero in the runs column for Chicago dropped his ERA from 6.38 coming in to 4.28 at the end of the night.
“I had better feel for it today,” Kluber shared of his cutter in a post-game interview with Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio. “It hadn’t been very good the first two starts. Three or four of the home runs I allowed came on bad cutters.”
“He’s a guy who makes adjustments right away,” said Gomes. “That’s why he is so good. He notices when some of his pitches are moving more than others. His stuff was Kluber stuff.”
It was the eleventh complete game of Kluber’s career and the fourth time that he has thrown a complete game shutout. He faced 29 batters on the night and just one White Sox player reached second base safely.
It may have been attributed to his lucky “Block C” socks that he wore on the mound – he shared postgame that he has worn them the last three games in Minnesota and the team won.
Quintana was the tough-luck loser on Friday night despite giving the Sox a quality start for the second time this season. He allowed three runs on five hits, walked three, and struck out six. His elevated walk numbers of late came back to haunt him on the big fly from Guyer. He fell to 0-4 with the loss while his ERA dropped in defeat to 6.17 on the season.
THE LITTLE THINGS
Gomes dropped down a big sacrifice bunt in the third and he chipped in with a hit later in the game. He has now hit safely in each of his last three games, plumping up his .067 batting average heading into the previous series against the Minnesota Twins to .162 following Friday’s action.
The Indians activated second baseman Kipnis from the 10-day disabled list prior to the game in a homecoming of sorts for the Illinois native. To make room on the roster, third baseman Yandy Diaz was optioned back to Triple-A Columbus.
Ramirez will move back over to third base to fill the void there with the second baseman Kipnis back to man his position.
THE MIDDLE GAME
The Indians and White Sox will play an hour earlier on Saturday as all three games of the weekend series will be played at different start times.
Carlos Carrasco (1-1, 2.33 ERA) will make his second start of the season against the White Sox on Saturday. He previously faced them in his second start of the season and took a no-decision in a well-pitched game won in extra innings by the Indians. He allowed just one run on four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in the contest.
The White Sox will need to make a roster move on Saturday as right-hander James Shields was placed on the disabled list prior to Friday’s game with a right lat strain. Veteran starter Mike Pelfrey is expected to be added to the roster, but the Sox will need to make a corresponding roster move to create space on the 40-man roster.
First pitch from the southside is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: David Banks/Getty Images