Indians’ Kluber aims to show Sox’s Lopez how it’s done

CLEVELAND — One of the premier pitchers and strike throwers in the major leagues will face one of the more promising young pitchers in the American League Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field as Cleveland Indians‘ Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber faces Chicago White Sox right-hander Reynaldo Lopez in the final game of a three-game series.

AL Central-leading Cleveland has won the first two games of the series and won four games in a row overall. Chicago, in last place in the Central, has lost three in a row.

Kluber (7-2, 2.17 ERA) is 11 starts into another typical Kluber season. He is tied for the American League lead in wins, is second in innings pitched, third in fewest walks per nine innings (1.1), and fourth in ERA.

The Indians’ American League-worst bullpen (6.06 ERA) has prevented Kluber from posting even better numbers. In his last start, May 25 vs. Houston, Kluber left the game in the seventh inning with a 2-0 lead, and the Astros then scored 11 runs in two innings in an eventual 11-2 Indians loss.

In that game Kluber pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowed seven hits, with seven strikeouts and no walks. He will go into Wednesday’s game with a streak of 22 1/3 consecutive innings without a walk. In the month of May, he is 3-1, with a 2.16 ERA, with 31 strikeouts and one walk. In Kluber’s two losses and two no-decisions he has a combined 2.30 ERA.

This will be Kluber’s first start of the season against the White Sox. In 20 career appearances against Chicago, he is 9-4 with a 3.19 ERA.

Because of all of their bullpen woes, the Indians’ stable of relievers on the big-league roster has been in an almost constant state of flux. They have made several roster moves involving relievers, and made another one Tuesday, selecting the contract of right-hander Jeff Beliveau from Triple-A Columbus and optioning starter Adam Plutko to Columbus.

“We’re going to get it figured out,” said manager Terry Francona of the Indians’ bullpen blues. “There’s been some tough sledding at times, but we’ll figure it out.”

Cleveland’s bullpen might be struggling, but their lineup isn’t. In the first six games of this seven-game homestand, the Indians have scored 38 runs, an average of 6.3 per game. The Indians lead the majors with 161 runs scored in the month of May.

The ring leader has been Michael Brantley, who will take an 18-game hitting streak, the longest active streak in the majors, into Wednesday’s game. In Tuesday’s game, he had three hits, including a home run. He is hitting .367 during the streak, with six home runs and 19 RBIs. For the season overall, he is hitting .343, which ranks second in the AL.

“Boy, he’s fun to watch. He’s an extremely good teammate, and very humble,” Francona said.

Chicago’s Wednesday Reynolds (1-3, 2.93) ranks 10th in the AL in ERA and 11th with an opponents’ batting average of .205. His last start was a no decision in a 5-4 White Sox loss to Detroit. In that game, Reynolds pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits, with three strikeouts and three walks.

Like Kluber, Reynolds has at times suffered from a lack of support by his teammates. He has gotten an average of just 2.88 runs per game support from White Sox hitters. In his six no-decisions, he has a 2.82 ERA.

In one career start against Cleveland, Reynolds is 0-1 with a 1.50 ERA.