Corey Kluber has again been one of baseball’s best pitchers this season, though his record doesn’t show it.
The right-hander tries to break a string of tough luck and record his first victory in seven outings Tuesday night when the Cleveland Indians host the Houston Astros.
Kluber (3-9, 3.64) owns one of the majors’ worst records despite being among its leaders in strikeouts, innings pitched and Fielding Independent Pitching. He’s 0-4 with a 3.86 ERA in six outings since his last victory May 28.
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No one has a lower ERA with more losses than Kluber, whose 2.43 run-support average is the second-lowest in baseball behind Cole Hamels’ 2.38. Only four pitchers since 1993 have lost 10 games before the All-Star break while sporting a 3.64 ERA or lower. The last was San Diego’s Tyson Ross, who was 7-10 with a 2.85 ERA before last season’s break.
Kluber, who has been left off the AL All-Star team, struck out 14 while giving up three earned runs in eight innings in Thursday’s 5-4, 10-inning win at Tampa Bay. He is 2-0 in the six games in which he has struck out 10-plus.
Kluber’s walks and hits per innings pitched (1.14) is only marginally higher than last year’s (1.09) when he won the Cy Young, yet he’s on pace to win 12 fewer games.
"His record doesn’t show anywhere near what he’s been able to do," shortstop Mike Aviles told MLB’s official website. "It’s just we haven’t been able to score runs for him. Honestly, that’s really what it comes down to."
Kluber lost to Houston on opening day, giving up two runs over 7 1-3 innings in a 2-0 road defeat. He had been 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three previous matchups with the Astros, including two starts. He’s fanned 31 in 23 2-3 innings against them.
The Astros (49-36) opened the four-game series with a 9-4 victory on Monday. Dallas Keuchel continued to make his case to start for the AL in next week’s All-Star Game, notching his league-leading 11th win.
Preston Tucker was 4 for 5 with his fifth home run, while Jose Altuve went 2 for 4, extending his hitting streak to a career best-matching 14 games. Altuve is 21 for 56 (.375) with 15 runs in that stretch.
The loss for the Indians (38-44) was their third straight, though Jason Kipnis, selected as Altuve’s backup on the All-Star team, extended his home hitting streak to 29 games with a single.
Vincent Velasquez (0-0, 4.21 ERA) makes his sixth career start after completing 6 1-3 innings in back-to-back outings, though he’s still seeking his first win. The righty allowed four runs and matched a season high with seven strikeouts in Houston’s 6-5 victory against Kansas City on Wednesday.
A sixth straight start without a decision would match the longest drought to open a career dating back to 1914, set previously by Hideo Nomo (1995), Marc Valdes (1995-96) and Chris Brock (1997).
"We’d like to reward him one of these days with a win," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He pitched well enough to win tonight but obviously the team win is more important."
Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena, who leads the club with 19 homers, is day to day after sitting out Monday. An X-ray showed a sprained left big toe, aggravated during a home plate collision Sunday at Boston.