The Cleveland Indians’ Corey Kluber nearly went the distance in yet another excellent showing over the weekend.
While he’s baffled the Royals at home this season, he’s rarely had success in Kansas City.
The right-hander tries to win a career-best fourth consecutive start as these AL Central rivals open a four-game set Thursday night.
Kluber (10-6, 2.95 ERA) is 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA over his last five outings after winning 6-2 in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Detroit. He allowed both runs and struck out 10 before exiting with two outs in the ninth inning.
"I’m not trying to strike guys out. My game plan is to go out there and pound the strike zone," said Kluber, among the AL leaders with 9.75 strikeouts per nine innings. "If it happens to get some swing-and-misses, great. If it happens to get some early outs, great."
Kluber put together a nearly identical performance in a 4-1 win over Kansas City on July 6, yielding one run and striking out 10 over 8 1-3 innings. He also struck out 11 in a four-hitter to beat the Royals 5-1 on April 24.
While both of those gems came at home, Kluber had a rough start at Kauffman Stadium sandwiched in between. He allowed six runs – three earned – in a 9-5 loss June 10, dropping to 1-1 with a 6.15 ERA in five road starts against the Royals.
The Indians (51-50) hadn’t lost a series all month before dropping two of three at Minnesota. Infielder Jose Ramirez, called back up from Triple-A Columbus earlier in the day, had two hits and drove in Cleveland’s only run in Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat.
"We just didn’t do much offensively," said manager Terry Francona, whose team has batted .214 while losing three of four.
Michael Brantley is 1 for his last 12, Lonnie Chisenhall is 1 for his last 16 and Jason Kipnis is in a 3-for-18 funk.
The Royals (50-50) return home after closing a 2-4 trek with back-to-back wins over the Chicago White Sox. Mike Moustakas homered twice in Tuesday’s 7-1 win, then scored the tiebreaking run on an error in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 2-1 victory.
Kansas City now turns to Danny Duffy (5-10, 2.66), who can’t seem to catch a break. The left-hander has gone 1-5 in his last six outings despite a 2.41 ERA, receiving a combined four runs of support in those defeats.
Duffy is hoping to avoid losing a career worst-tying fourth straight start after yielding both runs – one earned – over 6 2-3 innings in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Boston.
He surrendered four runs and a career-high 10 hits over six innings opposite Kluber earlier this month. Duffy is 1-1 with a 5.51 ERA in three starts against the Indians, all of which have come on the road.
Eric Hosmer could be forced to sit out again after leaving Wednesday’s game because of decreased grip strength in his right hand. The first baseman, whose 16-game hitting streak was snapped, had missed the previous two games after getting plunked with a pitch Sunday. Hosmer is batting .330 over a 22-game stretch against the Indians.
"When it comes to pain, I’ve got a pretty high tolerance to that, but when I go to grip more, it’s just giving out," Hosmer told MLB’s official website. "It’s not a matter of pain, it’s just not letting me do it."
Kansas City has taken six of seven from Cleveland at home.