Kluber returns as Indians close series vs. A's (Jun 01, 2017)
CLEVELAND -- After nearly a month on the disabled list, Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber will return to the mound Thursday afternoon for the finale game of a four-game series against the Oakland A's at Progressive Field.
It will be Kluber's first game appearance since a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on May 2. In that game, Kluber gave up five runs on seven hits in the third inning before being forced out due to an ailing back. He was placed on the DL the next day.
In six starts this season, Kluber is 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA. In six career appearances -- five of them starts -- against the A's, he has an excellent 2.93 ERA but a record of just 1-4.
Manager Terry Francona wouldn't say whether Kluber would be on a pitch count Thursday.
"The idea is to win, but we want to set him up for the rest of the year," Francona said. "(Thursday) is not the last day of the season. The goal is to get him back to pitching every fifth day. We're not there yet."
Kluber's last start against Oakland came on July 31, 2016, an 8-0 Cleveland win. Kluber pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out seven.
That the A's and the Indians are playing a day game Thursday might be good news for Oakland. Although A's starter Jharel Cotton will be making his first career appearance against the Indians, Cotton has had success pitching during the day. In four career daytime starts, Cotton is 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA and .159 opponents' batting average.
A's manager Bob Melvin, meanwhile, is trying to get his team's offense started again. Oakland hitters have struck out 42 times in 27 innings through the first three games of the series in Cleveland. That includes fanning 19 times in a 9-4 loss on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Melvin juggled his lineup, moving Matt Joyce into the leadoff spot, replacing Rajai Davis, and hitting Mark Canha in the No. 2 spot. Both went 1-for-4 in the Athletics' 3-1 win. Canha did not start either of the first two games of the Cleveland series.
"Rajai is struggling a little bit, but all the guys we've used at the one and two have," Melvin said.
In the first two games of the Cleveland series, both Indians wins, Davis was 1-for-9 with five strikeouts while topping the batting order. Melvin has used six hitters in the leadoff spot, and none of them have been very effective. A's leadoff hitters are batting a major-league-low .159 (34-214).
The best news for Oakland going into the series finale is the play of infielder Chad Pinder on Wednesday. Pinder had three hits, two home runs and three RBIs -- all career highs.
Pinder accounted for all of Oakland's runs. Five of his past eight hits have been home runs. Don't be surprised to see him in the lineup Thursday.
"He's playing his way into a bigger role," Melvin said. "He's going to get lots more at bats. We'll find a way."