The Kansas City Royals were responsible for two of Corey Kluber’s losses during a disastrous stretch a month ago.
He enters this meeting once again resembling the pitcher that dazzled his way to the AL Cy Young Award in 2014.
Kluber looks to win a third straight start Wednesday night and help the visiting Cleveland Indians get back to .500 for the first time in two months in a matchup with a Royals team struggling offensively.
Kluber (3-5, 3.52 ERA) lost four consecutive starts while posting a 7.43 ERA from April 22-May 7, the last of which came in Kansas City when he allowed five runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-4 defeat.
The right-hander bounced back with three remarkable outings, allowing only two runs and striking out 37 over 25 innings. He followed by yielding three runs with 13 strikeouts in Thursday’s 5-3 win at Seattle. His 1.41 ERA since May 13 ranks as the best in the majors among those with at least 30 innings.
"I have no words for it," Indians right fielder Brandon Moss told MLB’s official website of Kluber’s current run. "I’m surprised it’s not being talked about more throughout baseball. I know he gets his credit, but I’ve never seen anything like it. And, I mean, I really haven’t."
Jason Kipnis has followed Kluber’s lead with an outstanding run of his own, hitting .415 with 31 runs and a 1.179 OPS in his last 30 games. He failed to get a hit Tuesday but scored the game-winning run on Michael Brantley’s eighth-inning single in a 2-1 victory. It was the third straight win and 11th in 14 games for the Indians (25-26), who are on the verge of getting back to .500 for the first time since they were 2-2 on April 10.
”It’s baseball. This is a tough game,” said Brantley, who had gone 8 for 38 (.211) over his previous nine games. ”But I don’t think about the past. I just think about today and getting the win for our team.”
Tuesday’s contest featured only 11 total hits and none from the Royals past the fourth inning. Kansas City (29-20) has lost six of seven, plating seven runs while batting .174 in the defeats.
Eric Hosmer had an RBI single Tuesday but reliever Wade Davis, who previously had not allowed a run, could not maintain the tie.
The Royals’ bullpen now has a 3.60 ERA in 25 innings over the last seven games after posting a 1.58 through the first 41.
Jason Vargas (3-2, 5.16) takes the mound looking for his third solid outing against the Indians this season. He gave up two runs, three hits and five walks in five innings in a 6-2 win at Cleveland on April 27 and permitted two runs, two hits and two walks in six innings in a 5-3 home victory over the Indians on May 5.
After a stint on the disabled list due to a left flexor strain, Vargas returned to suffer the loss Tuesday to the New York Yankees, striking out six and allowing two runs in four innings.
"I thought coming back off the DL, he was pretty down sharp," manager Ned Yost said. "He made one (bad) pitch … But six punchouts, pretty darn good. Came back in good fashion."
Mike Moustakas has found success against Kluber, going 13 for 27 with a home run and five doubles. He is 5 for 6 in this season’s matchups.