Indians Match AL Record Behind Kluber’s Complete Game Shutout; Indians 2, Tigers 0

Is there any pitcher in Major League Baseball you would want on the mound in a big game?

The list is probably small, but Corey Kluber is a must mention. He proved once again why he is charging towards the American League Cy Young Award on Tuesday night, as he blanked the Detroit Tigers on five hits for his third complete game shutout of the season while giving the Cleveland Indians their 20th consecutive win.

The improbable winning streak by the Tribe (89-56) has now matched the AL record of 20, set by the Oakland Athletics in 2002. The team will take aim at the Chicago Cubs’ Major League record of 21 straight wins in the series finale with the Tigers on Wednesday afternoon.

Lindor - Jason Miller/Getty Images
Lindor – Jason Miller/Getty Images

There did not appear to be any tiring in the Indians, even in the midst of a high-pressure stretch of baseball over the course of nearly three straight weeks. Kluber was his dominating self, he got just enough offense to win, and the defense behind him turned in several gems and a pair of big double plays.

Kluber allowed a leadoff double in the top of the first to Ian Kinsler, but he left him stranded at third by striking out Miguel Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos.

One of the recipes for success during the Indians’ winning streak has been scoring first. They have rarely trailed during the victorious stretch and Francisco Lindor made sure that Cleveland had an early lead to work with on Tuesday as he took left-hander Matt Boyd. After fouling off for straight pitches, he sent his 30th home run (!) of the season over the wall in left for a solo shot, putting the Indians on top, 1-0.

The Tigers appeared to take a page out of the Chicago White Sox’s book in approaching Kluber. The Sox were aggressive in attacking early fastballs from the right-hander in his last start and Detroit tried a similar approach, with much less success. They went down in order on two groundouts and a foul out, seeing just eight pitches in the process.

The Indians missed out on several opportunities in the early innings to break the game open against Boyd, who had pitched very well against Cleveland this season. One of those chances came in the second, when Jay Bruce singled with one out and Yandy Diaz and Brandon Guyer each followed with base hits to left to load the bases. Boyd got out of it by striking out Yan Gomes and getting Lindor to pop up to the catcher in foul territory to leave the bags juiced.

Kluber struck out a pair in the third before the Indians loaded the bases again. Austin Jackson singled to start the frame and Jose Ramirez followed with a single through the hole into right field. Boyd bounced back to strike out both Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana before Bruce took a walk. Diaz lofted the next pitch into right for an inning-ending flyout as the Indians again left the bases loaded.

Kluber gave up his second hit of the ball game with two outs in the fourth, when Castellanos doubled to right. The Tribe ace, however, would take things into his own hands and struck out Jeimer Candelario to end the inning.

The Cy Young candidate continued to slice through the Tigers order, setting down the side in order on ten pitches in the fifth and 12 pitches in the sixth.

The Indians would get a big insurance run in the bottom of the sixth against Boyd, who had retired seven straight before giving up a hustle double to the wall in left by Santana. He moved to third on a grounder from Bruce for the first out and Tigers manager Brad Ausmus went to his bullpen to lift Boyd for Drew VerHagen. The right-hander struck out Diaz before walking pinch-hitter Francisco Mejia intentionally. With runners on the corners and two down, VerHagen threw one that got away from catcher Bryan Holaday, allowing a sprinting Santana to score from third with a big insurance run, putting the Indians on top, 2-0.

Kluber retired eight straight of his own before Castellanos got to him again with a single to right. The defense came through, however, as Candelario grounded into an inning-ending double play. The same would happen in the eighth, as Tyler Collins singled on the first pitch before Holaday flied to left. Efren Navarro lined a bullet to the second baseman Ramirez, who made the catch and the easy throw back to first to double-up Collins to end the inning.

The Indians stranded runners on the corners in the eighth, missing a chance to give Kluber some extra support. The ace returned for the ninth and got two quick outs, a liner from Andrew Romine and a robbery of a hit off of the bat of Kinsler by Ramirez deep in the hole between first and second, before Alex Presley doubled to right-center. The always dangerous Cabrera stepped up to the plate, with a good track record against Kluber in his career but a hitless day with two strikeouts on his slate for the day. He skipped a grounder to third base, where Giovanny Urshela gloved, threw, and got the slow moving first baseman to end Kluber’s complete game shutout.

Kluber & Gomes - Jason Miller/Getty Images
Kluber & Gomes – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Kluber (16-4, 2.44 ERA) matched the league’s lead in wins, joining teammate Trevor Bauer and Boston’s Chris Sale, his chief competition for the Cy Young award. He threw nine innings of five-hit baseball, walking none and striking out eight. He faced just three over the minimum, thanks to two double play balls on the night. He needed 113 pitches (77 strikes) to earn his fourth consecutive win, his fifth complete game, and his third shutout of the season. His effort helped the Indians record their seventh shutout during their winning streak and their Major League leading 19th of the season.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Kluber said of the streak. “To go almost three weeks without losing a game is not something that you ever really expect.”

Boyd (5-10, 5.75) had another good outing against Cleveland, but took the tough-luck loss. He worked five-plus innings, giving up one run on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He threw 116 pitches in the short body of work as the Indians worked counts deep against the southpaw.

The Indians received good news off of the field as both Andrew Miller and Jason Kipnis appear to be close to returning to the club. The Tigers’ Victor Martinez underwent a heart ablation, as expected, to address an irregular heartbeat. Top remaining starting pitcher Michael Fulmer underwent surgery on his ulnar nerve; he will miss the remainder of the season.

Mike Clevinger (9-5, 3.30) and Buck Farmer (4-2, 6.32) will take the mound in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon. Clevinger has worked three straight scoreless six-inning starts. Farmer opened his September against Clevinger and allowed five runs on three hits with three walks in three innings in a loss.

First pitch is scheduled for 12:10 PM ET from Progressive Field.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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