Kluber tweaks delivery, rebounds with strong outing

CLEVELAND — Rumors of Corey Kluber’s demise after Monday’s struggles against Detroit might have been a little exaggerated.

The right-hander pitched his third complete game of the season as the Indians defeated the White Sox 3-1. Kluber threw 104 pitches (74 for strikes) and gave up one unearned run on five hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.

"His tank looks as full as it has ever been and he’s also learning each time he goes out," manager Terry Francona said.

After going only 2 2/3 innings in the 12-1 loss to the Tigers, Kluber made a slight adjustment where he stayed a little taller on the backside of his delivery and not bending his knee, which allowed him to get more leverage on the ball.

Also getting Kluber out after throwing 57 pitches allowed him to regroup and stay fresh for the remainder of the season.

"I felt good last time but didn’t make good pitches," said Kluber, who improves to 14-9. "I just try to go out every fifth day and pitch the best that I can."

Kluber was efficient all night. Of the 33 batters he faced, 24 had at-bats of three pitches or fewer, including five who faced only one pitch. He is the first pitcher since Len Barker in 1981 to throw three complete games in which he hasn’t allowed an earned run and had eight strikeouts or more.

In making his fifth start against the White Sox, Kluber established things from the outset. He threw fastballs to the first nine batters and didn’t deviate from that until the 31st pitch of the game when he threw a slider to Adam Eaton. Of Kluber’s eight strikeouts, all but one came in the final six innings.

"You don’t give away your good stuff early. If you can get through three innings with your fastball you should do it every time," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "Establish fastball command and make them respect that and then your offspeed stuff is going to be dominant the rest of the game which is kind of what we saw."

Where Corey Kluber ranks among American League leaders after Saturday’s game

Starts 30 (T-1st)
Wins 14 (T-5th)
Complete games 3 (T-2nd)
ERA 2.51 (4th)
Innings pitched 204 1/3 (3rd)
Strikeouts 223 (3rd)
Home ERA 235 (T-4th)
Night ERA 2.45 (5th)
Opp. average against .233 (T-6th)

The only run Kluber gave up was in the third when Jordan Danks scored on a fielding error by Jesus Aguilar. The White Sox had runners on second and third with two out in the fifth but Michael Bourn made a diving grab of an Adam Eaton fly ball to center to get out of the inning.

For awhile it appeared as if Kluber was doomed to another great start without any run support. But for the first time in six outings, the offense scored more than two runs. With it tied at one in the seventh, Jose Ramirez tripled to right to drive in Bourn and Michael Brantley singled to right to drive in Bourn.

With the eight strikeouts, Kluber became the fourth Indians pitcher since 1914 to have 18 starts with eight strikeouts or more, joining Herb Score (1956) and Sam McDowell (1966-67).

After losing three of four to Detroit, the Indians can sweep the White Sox on Sunday and are within 4 1/2 games of the second Wild Card spot.

Over the last 25 games, the Indians rotation owns the lowest ERA in the Majors (1.94) as the Indians have gone 16-8 (with the suspended game against the Royals pending). Callaway likes to give a lot of credit for that run to Kluber.

"They’re feeding off and competing against each other. It’s like hitting, it’s contagious," Callaway said. "A lot of it I’d like to think now is because Kluber is our leader now and everyone is watching him and how he goes about his business and adopting some of the things he does. He does it all right. If they do the same things he does, we’re all going to pitch better."