Corey Kluber pitched seven innings of shutout, four-hit baseball, and the offense used four late runs to back their starter to his 20th win of the season and the team’s 17th shutout of the campaign in a 4-0 win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.
The reigning Cy Young winner pitched nearly stress-free baseball from the southside of Chicago in the series opener with the White Sox, despite slow moving run support. Kluber worked seven shutout frames, striking out eleven batters and walking just one to go with the four hits that he surrendered to win 20 games for the first time in his career while becoming the first Indians pitcher to do so since Cliff Lee won 22 in 2008. The offense awoke with a pair of homers late and used three runs in the ninth inning to pad what was at the time a one-run advantage. In a flashback to better bullpen days, both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen worked perfect innings with a pair of strikeouts to wrap up the evening with 17 straight White Sox batters retired by the Tribe pitching staff.
“It worked out about as well as it could,” said manager Terry Francona after the game. “Kluber gets his 20th and we played the guys we wanted to and we didn’t have to pinch-hit anybody or anything like that so they got rest. Andrew pitched really well and we got Cody in. It worked out about as well as it could.
“We were all nervous for him. He probably wasn’t. We were, because it meant probably more to us than it did to him.”
Dylan Covey was the unlucky recipient of no run support in an unfavorable matchup with Kluber as for the second straight outing, he blanked the Indians over six scoreless innings. On Monday, he scattered six hits and a walk and struck out seven, but he came away with a no-decision.
He had to work around some early trouble, but he contained an Indians lineup lacking Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Jason Kipnis, who all got the night off. In the first, back-to-back one-out singles by Yandy Diaz and Melky Cabrera were wasted on consecutive strikeouts by Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso. Yan Gomes made it to third early in the second after a leadoff double and a sacrifice by Brandon Guyer, but a grounder and a strikeout left him there. Covey dodged another bullet in the fourth, when Encarnacion and Alonso each singled to start the top of the inning, but a strikeout by Gomes and a double play ball to third by Guyer ended that threat. He allowed runners in the fifth and sixth on a walk and a single, but otherwise squirmed through his six quality innings.
Kluber retired the side in order to start the home half of the first before needing to work a little bit in the second. Omar Narvaez singled to start the inning and one out later, Nicky Delmonico moved him to third on a single to right. Kluber handled the rest himself, striking out Tim Anderson and Jose Rondon.
Two more reached in the bottom of the third after Kluber struck out his fourth and fifth batters of the game to start the inning. Daniel Palka walked and Avisail Garcia reached on a single to short, but Kluber struck out his third of the frame, cutting down Narvaez swinging for his sixth K through three.
Kluber added two more Ks in the fourth, working around a one-out single by Delmonico, and did so again in the fifth. He set down eleven straight after the Delmonico hit before turning the game over to the bullpen.
Prior to departing the mound for the last time on the night, Kluber was finally given a run of support in the top of the seventh when White Sox manager Rick Renteria went to his bullpen for the first time, bringing on Ian Hamilton. Guyer used quick hands to turn on a 1-1 four-seamer, pulling it into the Chicago bullpen in left and giving his bat a flip to give the Indians a 1-0 lead.
The Indians stranded a pair in the eighth, but finally put a complete inning together in the ninth to give Kluber’s chance at 20 wins more support. Nate Jones entered for the Sox and struck out Erik Gonzalez, but the 35-year-old veteran and Chicago native Adam Rosales found a third straight slider from the right-hander and pulled it down the left field line, sprinting home for his first homer as an Indian to put Cleveland up two. Greg Allen followed with a double to right and moved to third on a single by Diaz. Brandon Barnes, in his first at bat of the game, singled to right to make it a 3-0 game, and Encarnacion singled to left to plate a darting Diaz from second to give the Indians a four-run lead. Hector Santiago retired the next two.
Miller’s perfect eighth, which included strikeouts of the last two that he faced, was followed by a similar solid effort from C. Allen, who struck out Garcia and Narvaez before Kevan Smith flied to center in a non-save situation.
The Indians moved to 88-68 on the season and 39-36 on the road. They are now 13-4 against the White Sox this season. Chicago dropped to 61-95 with the loss.
The Indians tallied 14 hits on the day, but did the scoring in the latter three frames after missing several earlier opportunities to touch up the scoreboard. Alonso led the way with three hits on the night, but was not involved in any scoring. Allen, Diaz, and Encarnacion each had two hits, with the two youngsters scoring a run each. Guyer’s homer was his seventh of the campaign and came off of a right-hander. Gomes struck out three times on the night, but he did extend his hitting streak to eight games with his double.
Cleveland pitchers struck out 15 Chicago hitters on the night.
Trevor Bauer (12-6, 2.21 ERA) will make his second start since being activated from the disabled list on Tuesday night in the middle game of three with the White Sox. He lasted an inning and one-third on Friday against Boston in his first action since taking a liner off of the leg on August 11. Carlos Carrasco will follow him to the mound later in the game, hoping to be in a position to vulture another relief win.
Veteran righty James Shields (7-16, 4.48) will counter for Chicago. The 36-year-old was sharp against the Indians last week in a quality start, but he was dealt a no-decision despite working six innings and allowing two runs (on a pair of solo home runs) on five hits with three walks, a hit batter, and one strikeout.
Game time from Guaranteed Rate Field is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET on Tuesday.
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images