Indians provide support for Kluber in rally over Reds
CLEVELAND — There are two things this season that have been absolutes in most Corey Kluber starts this season — he is going to dominate the other team and the Indians aren’t going to provide much in the way of run support.
For the third straight game, Kluber showed the form that made him the Cy Young Award winner last season. But for the second time in three games, two runs ended up being enough on Saturday as the Indians defeated the Reds 2-1.
Kluber has the lowest run support average of any qualifying starting pitcher in the majors at 2.20. In the 10 games he has started, the Indians have not scored four or more runs and have scored three just twice.
"There are going to be nights where the offense doesn’t score a lot of runs for you," Kluber said. "I think in those games you try to hold them to as few as you can and keep it close until hopefully they pull through like they did today."
In getting his first win on May 13, the Indians scored a pair of runs in the first and Kluber did the rest in striking out 18. On Saturday, he allowed a run in the second on a Zack Cozart sac fly before the Indians scored runs in the seventh and eighth. It is the first time in seven games this season that the Indians have won when they have had four or fewer hits.
Kluber though is used to pitching in close games without a lot of offense. In his 34 starts last year, there were 16 games where the offense posted two runs or fewer when he was the starter. In five of those he left trailing or tied after allowing two runs or fewer.
"There’s no rhyme or reason to it, there’s no explanation for it. We’re not like, ‘oh, Kluber’s on the mound, we can take this one off,’ it’s just the way it’s worked out on some stuff," said Jason Kipnis, whose double drove in Michael Bourn with the game-winning run in the eighth. "Those should be the games where we try even harder because we know if we get four or five runs across, that we should be getting a win out of that at the end of the day.
"It’s unfortunate, but the fact that he remains kind of confident in himself to go out there and just keep it at one run, keep it a low-scoring game, that he can still get a win, is a tip of the cap to him."
It is fitting that Kipnis would come through to get Kluber the win. In 21 games this month, Kipnis has hit safely in all but two an has a .465 average with 10 doubles, three home runs and 12 RBI.
"When he gets on these streaks how unbelievable he is and he definitely is in the middle of one right now and ride it out as much as we can," Kluber said.
Over his last three starts, Kluber has gone 2-0 with a 0.72 ERA and 37 strikeouts against just one walk. His season ERA has dropped from 5.04 to 3.49. Kluber’s emergence has coincided with the rotation rounding into form. Since May 10, Tribe starters have the fourth-lowest ERA in the majors (2.69) and have gone 7-2.
While the offense has had its bouts of inconsistency, they have had some timely hitting. With Saturday’s win, the Indians have won five straight and will attempt to get its first series sweep of the season on Sunday.
"Our rotation is our strength. When you can run out the arms we have in our rotation (it’s a big plus)," said Cody Allen, who got his ninth save. "It all starts with Kluber. He kind of sets the table for the rest of the guys and they’re just following suit."