K is for Kluber: Tribe hurler tries for 10-plus strikeouts again
Corey Kluber beat the Minnesota Twins twice in September during a season-ending win streak that propelled him to the AL Cy Young Award, but he has yet to earn a victory this year despite a pair of solid efforts.
The Cleveland Indians right-hander will try to keep that drought brief by collecting another win over the Twins on Friday night.
Kluber beat the Twins twice in a five-start winning streak to close 2014, a stretch that helped him win the league's top pitching honor. He pitched at least eight innings and gave up two runs in the two victories over Minnesota, matching a career high with 14 strikeouts in a 7-2 win at Target Field on Sept. 21.
Kluber set a single-season team mark with seven games of 10-plus strikeouts and one or no walks last year, and had his first such performance of 2015 on Saturday against Detroit.
He struck out 10 and walked one while giving up two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 9-6 loss. He didn't get a decision.
Kluber (0-1, 2.63 ERA) allowed two runs and three hits while striking out seven in 7 1-3 innings of his season debut April 6, but lost 2-0 at Houston. He's gotten three runs of support in his two starts after receiving an average of 4.39 per nine innings in 2014.
The Indians (3-5) are batting .224 with 27 runs but did enough to avoid a winless five-game homestand Wednesday, topping the Chicago White Sox 4-2.
"That's why you work so hard in spring training regardless of what your start is, you can handle what's thrown at you and find way to win," manager Terry Francona said. "It's nice to come out of the gate 6-0, but you don't always do that."
Cleveland is looking for its 11th win in 16 games against the Twins (3-6). The Indians took four of their final six in Minnesota in last year.
The Twins dealt previously unbeaten Kansas City back-to-back losses in their last two games, posting their highest run and hit totals (14) this season in an 8-5 victory Thursday.
Joe Mauer had three RBIs and Kennys Vargas and Kurt Suzuki gave Minnesota its first multihomer game of 2015.
"To take two of three from probably the best team in baseball, it shows we do have the capabilities of competing on a day-to-day basis," outfielder Torii Hunter told MLB's official website after collecting three hits. "Those first six or seven games were ugly, but that wasn't us. I think we found ourselves."
Scheduled Twins starter Mike Pelfrey is 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA in four career starts against Cleveland. He gave up three runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-2 loss last April 4 in his only matchup with the Indians last season.
Pelfrey couldn't hold an early four-run lead in his season debut Saturday against the White Sox, giving up four runs in five innings of a 5-4 loss.
The Indians won't have at least one of their top hitters against the Twins last season in this series. Yan Gomes, who batted .333 with six homers and 19 RBIs, could miss at least six weeks because of a sprained right knee suffered Saturday.
Michael Brantley is day-to-day with an ailing back. He hit .333 with 14 RBIs against Cleveland in 2014.