The Indians’ new ace outdueled one of the top pitchers in baseball Wednesday night.
Corey Kluber threw a three-hitter to outpitch Felix Hernandez for his first career shutout and Cleveland defeated the Seattle Mariners 2-0.
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"Obviously, it’s a challenge going up against one of the best pitchers in the game," Kluber said. "We all look forward to challenges so it’s nice to come out on top."
Kluber’s outstanding performance came hours after the Indians traded opening-day starter Justin Masterson to St. Louis. Kluber was so dominating, manager Terry Francona never had a reliever warm up.
The crowd of 14,836 was on its feet for the ninth inning and roared when Kluber retired the side on eight pitches.
Yan Gomes hit a two-run double with the bases load in the fifth inning for the game’s only runs.
The matchup between two of the top pitchers in the American League lived up to its billing. Kluber (11-6) held the Mariners to three singles and no walks while striking out eight. The right-hander threw 69 of his 85 pitches for strikes.
Hernandez (11-3) didn’t allow a base runner until Carlos Santana drew a leadoff walk in the fifth. Gomes capped the rally with his double.
"You rarely see two guys that good and that on top of their game to boot," Francona said. "The way Felix was throwing the only way to beat him was the way Corey threw. Sixteen balls? That’s like, two an inning? That’s phenomenal."
Kluber carried a perfect game into the seventh inning of his previous start against Kansas City and has faced only 28 batters in each of his last two starts. According to Baseball Reference, Kluber is the only pitcher in major league history to face 28 batters or fewer in consecutive starts of at least nine innings.
"That guy is good, what he did tonight was not a fluke, trust me," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. "All the credit goes to him. He’s on quite a stretch."
Hernandez, who gave up four hits, was pulled after the seventh. He has allowed two runs or fewer and pitched at least seven innings in 14 consecutive starts, a major league record.
Lonnie Chisenhall followed Santana’s walk with a double that rolled up the gap in right-center with Santana stopping at third. Nick Swisher’s ground ball got past first baseman Logan Morrison. Second baseman Robinson Cano ranged far to his left to field the ball, but Hernandez didn’t cover first base, and Swisher beat Cano to the bag with a head-first dive.
Santana, who held third on the play, was forced out at home on a ground ball, and Gomes slapped a 2-1 pitch over the bag at first to score two runs.
Hernandez, who held the Indians to one hit in eight shutout innings on June 29, struck out five and walked two.
Indians players wore their socks high in honor of Masterson, who sported that style while pitching for the team. The decision led to Kluber’s only problem of the evening.
"Nobody let me know about it so I had to run in here and change after I warmed up," he said. "I didn’t want to be the only one with them down. It was a little bit late notice."
MORE CHANGES AHEAD?
Trading Masterson might not be the Indians’ only move. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera could be dealt before Thursday’s 4 p.m. deadline. Cabrera, as was the case with Masterson, is a free agent and could be traded for a prospect.
Mariners: Left-hander James Paxton (strained back muscle) looks to be on schedule to start Saturday in Baltimore after completing a 45-pitch bullpen session with no problems Wednesday. Paxton won his first two starts, but has been on the disabled list since April 9. He’s 2-0 this season and is 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA in six career starts.
Indians: Thanks to injuries and poor performances, Cleveland’s rotation has been in flux. The latest change will come Saturday when left-hander T.J. House will be called up to take Masterson’s spot. Right-hander Danny Salazar will pitch Friday against Texas with House going the following night.
Mariners right-hander Chris Young (9-6) takes on Indians righty Zach McAllister (3-6) in the three-game series finale Thursday. Young has won both of his career starts against Cleveland, posting a 0.69 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 13 innings. McAllister’s 5.65 ERA is the highest of the eight starters used by the Indians this year.