CLEVELAND – Corey Kluber moved one start closer to surpassing Bob Feller for an accolade that has held its ground for nearly 80 years.
History is in the making.
The ace of the staff struck out 10 or more batters for the fourth consecutive start, tying Feller’s franchise-best streak from 1938-1939 and giving the Indians a 5-1 victory over the Rangers on Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field.
Kluber improves to 53-0 in his last 53 appearances with four or more runs of offensive support.
Mazara breaks scoreless streak; Kluber builds off response runs
An 0-2 curveball over the middle of the plate landed beyond the right field wall for Nomar Mazara’s 11th homer, the first run surrendered by Kluber in his last 21 innings pitched.
“It wasn’t a good pitch, but he took advantage of it,” said Kluber. “That’s what a hitter’s job is, to take advantage of a mistake when a pitcher makes one and he did. You just got to kind of flush it and keep it in perspective that it was a bad pitch and I’d like to think that if I made a good one he wouldn’t have hit a home run.”
The Tribe answered with two runs on Francisco Lindor’s RBI groundout and a wild pitch that allowed Bradley Zimmer to slide around a tag and score.
“Talk about manufacturing with his legs,” Francona said about Zimmer’s hustle. “I don’t know how many guys are able to beat that ball out. I don’t know how many guys can score. All the way around, that was just his speed. At the time of the game, that’s a huge run for us.”
Kluber settled in to retire 15 of the last 16 hitters he faced, earning his seventh win – 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R/ER, 1 BB, 12 K (111 pitches, 78 strikes, 70.3%, seven groundouts, one flyout).
“There wasn’t a plan to go one way or the other,” said Kluber. “I think it’s just kind of paying attention to the way their at-bats are going and kind of adjusting throughout the game. I think every game you have to have a plan going into it, but you also have to be willing to adjust that plan if you know the hitters are reacting a little bit differently than you originally thought they would.”
The 2014 AL Cy Young winner’s 12 punchouts expanded his career total to 1041, tying Luis Tiant for 10th all-time in franchise history.
“I had no idea,” Kluber said. “I think it’s like any other accomplishment. I think it’s cool to hear those kind of things. I think that you take a moment to appreciate it and then move on. It’s probably something you’ll appreciate more down the road. I think that accomplishments like that are nice, but not why we play the game.”
Bats provide breathing room
Edwin Encarnacion (single) and Lonnie Chisenhall (double) knocked in a trio of runs in the sixth, expanding the advantage to 5-1. Chisenhall now leads the American League with nine RBIs in pinch-hit situations.
“He certainly does a good job of staying ready,” said Francona. “As we get into the game, he’s down there. It’s not like he’s going in cold. I think that helps you mentally. He’s always been ready which is good. But I think he’s in a pretty good place confidence wise.”
Bryan Shaw hurled a scoreless ninth frame, holding the Rangers to four hits for the matinee.
The Indians head to Detroit to take on the Tigers on Friday at 7:10 p.m. from Comerica Park.
RHP Josh Tomlin (4-9, 6.09) has given up 39 earned runs in 66 innings throughout his 13 appearances (nine starts) against the Tigers. The 32-year-old is 1-3 with a 5.50 ERA on the road this season.
RHP Anibal Sanchez (0-0, 6.75) will look to keep it rolling in June, a month where he has pitched at least five innings with two or fewer runs charged to his stat line in two outings. The Tigers recalled the 33-year-old veteran from Triple-A Toledo on June 19.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.