CLEVELAND -- There is only one goal on the mind of Corey Kluber right now. With the American League Central title already wrapped up for the Indians, their ace will use the remainder of the regular season as preparation for the postseason.On Tuesday night, Kluber began that process against the
CLEVELAND -- There is only one goal on the mind of Corey Kluber right now. With the American League Central title already wrapped up for the Indians, their ace will use the remainder of the regular season as preparation for the postseason.
On Tuesday night, Kluber began that process against the White Sox and turned in a strong performance in guiding his club to a 5-3 victory at Progressive Field. The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner -- in contention for a third this year -- piled up 11 strikeouts and earned a career-best 19th win.
"To me, it makes the most sense to still try to stay in that competitive frame of mind," Kluber said. "I don't want to go out there and feel like it's Spring Training or something like that, just because we've already clinched. I think the best way to stay locked in is to kind of keep your foot on the gas, so to speak."
Kluber was working on seven days' rest, which is unusual, especially for a pitcher who is such a creature of routine. That approach by the Indians was with October in mind, though. Kluber has requested an extra day of rest before a Game 1 start in the AL Division Series on Oct. 5, so the Tribe adjusted his schedule accordingly.
The extra rest appeared to do Kluber wonders out of the chute, considering he breezed through the first six batters he faced on 12 pitches. Chicago's lineup went 3-for-18 against him through five shutout innings, during which an ultra-aggressive approach worked in the pitcher's favor.
Overall, Kluber (19-7, 2.93 ERA) generated 24 swings and misses in the win, according to Statcast™. That's his most in an outing since Aug. 8, 2017, when he had 26 against the Rockies.
"Early on ... they were trying to hit the first straight one they saw," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's getting that feel for his breaking ball back and it gets exciting."
The White Sox finally broke through in the sixth.
Daniel Palka and Omar Narvaez each connected for solo homers off Kluber in the frame, and Yolmer Sanchez added an RBI double in the seventh. Those setbacks did not deter Kluber, who dodged a couple more baserunners in order to complete eight innings. He scattered eight hits and walked two in the win.
Andrew Miller struck out three in the ninth to pick up the save.
"I'm happy Kluber got the win," Miller said.
The Tribe struck for five runs in White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon's seven innings. Melky Cabrera (RBI double) and Yan Gomes (RBI single) came through in the second and Jason Kipnis highlighted a three-run fifth with his 16th home run of the season.
That production put Kluber on a path to win No. 19, which surpassed his previous best of 18 (achieved in 2014, '16 and '17). Kluber, who joined Rays lefty Blake Snell atop the AL leaderboard for wins this season, is the first Indians pitcher to reach 19 since Cliff Lee went 22-3 in 2008.
With his effort, Kluber also eclipsed 200 innings and 200 strikeouts to become the first pitcher in Indians history to do so in five consecutive seasons. He is only the 40th pitcher in history to meet those benchmarks in at least five years.
"It's just being able to stay healthy and make starts and log innings," Kluber said. "Hopefully, that results in giving the team a chance to win. I'm not concerned with what specific statistics are. It's just being able to be reliable and take the ball when it's your turn."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pain, then gain: Tribe fans held their collective breath in the fifth inning, when Jose Ramirez recoiled in pain after being hit on the left arm by a 94.7-mph fastball from Rodon. Ramirez was quickly examined and he opted to stay in the game. The AL MVP Award candidate promptly stole second (his 33rd theft of the season) and he then scored on the back end of a two-run single by Yandy Diaz to give the Indians a 5-2 lead.
"Fortunately, it got him above the elbow," Francona said. "But, it got him pretty good."
The scare certainly didn't slow Ramirez down.
"It never will," Francona said with a smile.
Donaldson's sprint:Josh Donaldson drew a one-out walk in the second and then passed another test in his return from a left calf injury. Cabrera followed by ripping a pitch into the left-field corner, where the ball slipped under the glove of outfielder Ryan LaMarre. Third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh waved Donaldson home and he hustled the remaining 90 feet to score the first run of the night.
"We knew that he had worked really hard," Francona said. "We just try to use common sense and not overdo it too quick. Everybody wants, myself included, you want to see him play, but I think we've tried to manage it pretty well. Pretty soon, we'll be able to turn him loose."
Trevor Bauer (214 strikeouts), Carlos Carrasco (206) and Kluber (205) are the first trio in Indians history to have at least 200 strikeouts in the same season. Cleveland is the fourth team to accomplish that, joining the 2013 Tigers, 1969 Astros and 1967 Twins. If Mike Clevinger (196) reaches 200 punchouts, the Indians will be the first team in MLB history to have four pitchers reach that milestone in the same campaign.
Rajai Davis' stolen base in the eighth inning gave him 20 on the season, giving the Indians three players (Lindor, 23; Ramirez, 33) with at least 20 steals this year. They are the first Indians trio to achieve that feat since 2000, when Roberto Alomar, Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel each stole at least 20 bags.
Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco (16-8, 3.41 ERA) is slated to start at 7:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday against the White Sox at Progressive Field. In two starts against Chicago this season, Carrasco is 2-0 with 20 strikeouts and one walk in 14 shutout innings. The Sox counter with righty Dylan Covey (5-13, 5.64 ERA).
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.