Eight strong innings from Corey Kluber and a three-run fifth powered the Cleveland Indians to a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night from Progressive Field.
Pitcher wins have been devalued some in recent years, but that takes little away from Kluber’s effort on Tuesday, which secured him a career-best 19th victory on the year. He struck out eleven batters, his highest single-game K mark since April 9 (when he struck out 13 Tigers in his third start of the year). He ran into a brief bump in the road in the sixth inning, when the White Sox hit a pair of homers, but he otherwise contained the young and aggressive White Sox in his longest start since his August 4 shutout of the Los Angeles Angels.
Carlos Rodon was on the mound for the White Sox while making his third start of the season against the Indians. After a routine first frame with three groundball outs, two mistakes came around to cost him in the second. With one down, Rodon walked Josh Donaldson on four straight fastballs out of the zone. Melky Cabrera, the former White Sox outfielder, pulled the next pitch to left, scoring Donaldson all the way from first to put the Indians up, 1-0. Yonder Alonso was plunked by a 1-1 fastball to put two on and Yan Gomes continued his hot second half hitting with a single to center to push Cabrera in with the second run of the inning. Rodon got a double play grounder from Jason Kipnis, but Cleveland was on top, 2-0.
Kluber retired the first seven in a row before giving up his first hit of the game on a one-out double by Yoan Moncada. He was stranded as the Tribe right-hander struck out Adam Engel and got Yolmer Sanchez to ground out to first.
The Indians had base runners in the third and fourth, but could not score. The White Sox threatened again with a runner in scoring position in the top of the fifth, but had the same trouble as their counterparts as a leadoff single by Matt Davidson and a one-out single from Moncada put two on base, but Engel was cut down on strikes again and Sanchez grounded to first in a bit of déjà vu.
After dodging the issue in the top of the inning, the Indians got to Rodon for three big runs that proved to be the difference. Kipnis led off the inning by finding himself in a 3-0 hole. After taking a strike looking, he drove a four-seamer over the wall in right to put the Indians up by three. Francisco Lindor reached on an infield single and advanced to second before moving to third on a groundout by Michael Brantley. Jose Ramirez was hit in the arm by a pitch and stole second base before Yandy Diaz singled to right-center to knock in both base runners. Donaldson popped out and Cabrera flied out, but Cleveland had a healthy 5-0 lead for Kluber.
The added runs in the fifth proved beneficial for Kluber in the following half inning as the White Sox took an aggressive approach and parked two over the fence. Tim Anderson lined out on the first pitch of the inning, but young slugger Daniel Palka went deep on a 1-1 curve to put the Sox on the board. Avisail Garcia grounded out on the first pitch that he saw, but in similar fashion to Palka, Omar Narvaez homered on a 1-1 changeup to make it a 5-2 game. Kluber got out of the inning by striking out Davidson.
The Sox used a pair of extra base hits in the seventh to add on. Ryan LaMarre led off the inning with a double to right and moved to third on a groundout by Moncada. Engel struck out swinging for the second out, but Sanchez delivered a clutch two-out two-base hit to cut the score to 5-3. Kluber struck out Anderson to get out of the jam.
Kluber worked out of a tight jam in the eighth inning in his final frame of the night. After striking out Palka and getting Garcia to ground out to short, Narvaez singled and Davidson drew a walk to put two on. With the go-ahead run at the plate in LaMarre, Kluber got a big grounder to short to strand the tying runs, leaving it a two-run edge for the Tribe.
The Indians missed out on an opportunity to add an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth against Nate Jones after a leadoff walk by Diaz. Donaldson and Cabrera both lined out before pinch-runner Rajai Davis picked off second base and moved to third on a throwing error by Narvaez. With a big run 90 feet away, Alonso struck out swinging.
Andrew Miller stared down some danger in the ninth while working in a save situation. Moncada struck out looking. Welington Castillo pinch-hit for Engel and he struck out on four pitches, but he reached base safely on a passed ball by Gomes. Sanchez struck out swinging for the second out and Miller’s third straight K. Anderson singled to right to put the tying runs on base, but Palka put the next ball on the ground in the infield to end the threat and the game.
The Indians improved to 84-66 on the season and 46-30 at Progressive Field. They are now 11-3 against the Sox this season with two four-game winning streaks and one current three-game winning streak. The White Sox dropped to 59-91 on the season and 31-44 away from the Windy City.
The aggressive approach used by the White Sox throughout the early portion of the game helped extend Kluber into the later innings. He lasted eight full to earn his career-high 19th win, giving up three runs on eight hits with two walks and eleven strikeouts. He threw 75 of 107 pitches for strikes, which included nearly one-third of the strikes swinging.
Miller’s save was his first since April. He struck out three, but the passed ball third strike put him in an odd position of being able to add a fourth strikeout victim in the frame, but he gave up the Anderson single before Palka’s groundout.
Rodon’s recent command issues continued on Tuesday, but he was able to give Chicago seven innings of work. He was charged with five runs on seven hits with three walks and a strikeout on 84 pitches to drop to 6-6 on the season. He is winless in three tries against the Tribe.
Play in the series resumes on Wednesday night as the Indians host the White Sox in the second of three games this week. Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (16-9, 3.43 ERA) will be the first to the mound, looking to earn his first win in September after a dominant showing in August. He is 5-0 over the last two seasons against Chicago with a 0.83 ERA. Righty Dylan Covey (5-13, 5.64) will make his fifth start of the season against Cleveland while looking for his second win against them on the year. He moved back into the rotation a week and a half ago after a brief bullpen stint, but was hit hard in that outing. He last earned a win as a starter on July 21.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images