CLEVELAND (AP) Corey Kluber stayed stone-faced, maintaining the same stoic look in the clubhouse that he had for nine innings on the mound.
Only when prodded by an Indians teammate did Kluber crack.
”Did you smile after the game?” pitcher Justin Masterson yelled to Kluber.
”I did,” he said. ”Only when I saw you.”
Kluber had everyone in Cleveland’s clubhouse smiling after he struck out a career-high 11 and pitched a four-hitter for his first complete game, leading the Indians to a 5-1 win over the Royals on Thursday.
Kluber (2-2) didn’t walk a batter, and his rare outing allowed Cleveland manager Terry Francona to give some needed rest to his bullpen.
”That was really fun to watch,” Francona said. ”He had everything working. His fastball was going both ways, change-up, location. He worked ahead and he threw a ton of strikes. That was really impressive.”
Kluber is the first Cleveland pitcher to throw a complete game while recording 11 strikeouts, no walks or earned runs since Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981.
”It was nice,” said Kluber, who couldn’t remember the last time he pitched nine innings. ”I really wasn’t trying to make a bigger deal out of it than going out there and getting three more outs. Maybe that’s why it worked out.”
David Murphy and Asdrubal Cabrera drove in two runs apiece in the Indians’ five-run fifth off Bruce Chen (1-2), who controlled Cleveland’s lineup for four innings.
The Indians have won four of five to get back to .500.
The Royals scored an unearned run off Kluber in the seventh when Omar Infante singled and scored when Indians first baseman Nick Swisher made a half-hearted attempt at Mike Moustakas’ grounder, which got by him for an error and rolled all the way into the right-field corner.
Other than that, Kansas City’s hitters were unable to do much against Kluber, whose previous long outing was 8 2-3 innings last July against the White Sox. He’s 3-0 in four career starts against the Royals.
”He put it to us,” said Alex Gordon, who went 0-for-4 and struck out to the end the game. ”Give him credit. You look at our offense today and say we stunk. That’s how it was.”
Chen coasted through four innings, dominating the Indians with a mix of off-speed pitches before they touched him for five runs and chased him in the fifth.
The left-hander retired 11 straight before Carlos Santana led off with a double, snapping an 0-for-16 slide with just his third hit in 48 at-bats. Michael Brantley followed with a single to center for his team-leading 19th RBI, giving Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
The Indians didn’t stop there as Murphy slapped a two-run single to left, and Cabrera made it 5-0 with his double down the left-field line to end Chen’s outing.
The 28-year-old Kluber doesn’t come across as fiery, but Francona said his low-key demeanor is deceiving.
”He’s not the loudest guy in the clubhouse, but there’s a fire there, man,” Francona said. ”He competes. He wants to be really good. He goes at it the right way. For a kid that doesn’t have a ton of time in the major leagues, he’s a good pro.”
Kansas City managed just one hit off Kluber in the first four innings, and then the Royals ran their way out of a scoring chance in the fifth when Alcides Escobar hesitated rounding second on Jarrod Dyson’s base hit, and Brantley threw him out from center.
The Royals turned a nifty double play to end the first.
With a Cabrera at third, first baseman Eric Hosmer fielded Jason Kipnis’ hard grounder, stepped on first and threw home. Catcher Brett Hayes made a sweeping tag on Cabrera, who was called out. Crew chief Bill Miller called for a review to see if Hayes had blocked the plate, but the call was confirmed.
NOTES: Kluber threw 101 pitches, 75 for strikes. … Kluber’s complete game was the first for the Indians since Justin Masterson’s on June 30 last season. … The Indians and Cincinnati Reds entered the day as the only teams yet to play in an extra-inning game this season. … The Indians will open a three-game interleague series in San Francisco on Friday. … Brantley is 11 for 22 in his career against Chen.