CLEVELAND -- Another heavy output day for the Indians' sizzling offense was more than enough for Corey Kluber to cruise to his eighth win Wednesday, helping the Tribe complete a three-game sweep against the White Sox at Progressive Field, and take the series finale, 9-1.Despite what the box score indicates,
CLEVELAND -- Another heavy output day for the Indians' sizzling offense was more than enough for Corey Kluber to cruise to his eighth win Wednesday, helping the Tribe complete a three-game sweep against the White Sox at Progressive Field, and take the series finale, 9-1.
Despite what the box score indicates, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner didn't take his performance as an easy task.
"I think you kind of train yourself to take each hitter, each pitch, as if the game was tied," Kluber said. "I think through experience, I'm sure every pitcher would tell you as soon as you let your guard down a little bit, things usually bite you in the ear."
Kluber (8-2) gave the Indians another strong outing, striking out 10 and allowing just three hits through six innings to help the Tribe improve to 29-25 and take a five-game lead atop the American League Central standings. The 13-hit attack also marks the Indians' fifth straight win, after salvaging a pair of wins against the Astros in a four-game split over the weekend. The White Sox (16-37) have lost five of the last six.
"It's nice to have a game like today," manager Terry Francona said. "They've been grinding, and we got a big series now coming up."
Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 19 games -- the longest active streak in the Majors -- with a single as part of a two-run frame to get the Indians started in the first inning. Though it would be all Kluber would need, a five-run attack in the third inning blew the game open.
To add insult to injury, the Tribe tacked on two more in the fourth -- Jose Ramirez led off with a solo homer, marking the third baseman's 17th of the season. Edwin Encarnacion followed suit with a solo shot for his 13th, making it the fourth time this season the Indians have gone back-to-back.
"What I really like -- we're going to hit some home runs," Francona said. "We're kind of built like that, but to get the line moving and go first-to-third and do those types of things as well, that's a really good thing."
After Kluber's departure, the bullpen held the White Sox to two hits, with the lone blemish being a home run to Yolmer Sanchez off reliever Ben Taylor to lead off the ninth.
Kluber's outing lasted just 90 pitches, but the win ties him for the Major League-lead with Nationals ace Max Scherzer. Kluber is 4-0 in four starts against the AL Central this season, and picked up his fourth 10-plus strikeout game this year.
"It was nice we were able to get him out after six," Francona said. "He doesn't have to go out and grind through because we rely on him so much. … Anytime you can save anybody some bullets, that's a really good thing."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Tribe's offense gave Kluber more than he needed, thanks to a five-run, six-hit third inning. Brantley led off the frame and reached after getting hit by White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez, setting the table for four-consecutive base hits -- three singles by Ramirez, Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso and a two-run double by Melky Cabrera.
Yan Gomes brought in Alonso on a sacrifice fly to center, and Erik Gonzalez capped off the rally by ripping a single to right to bring home Cabrera. Gonzalez's RBI knock ended the day for Lopez, who was dealt the loss, and is 1-4 after getting taxed for seven runs on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings.
"The offense has been doing really well for a long time, swinging the bat really well," Kluber sad. "If we can pitch well to support that, obviously it makes for a good recipe to win ballgames."
Through May, Kluber has struck out 41 batters in 39 1/3 innings and has walked one. The Indians' ace struck out 10 against the Astros on the road on May 19, for his second double-digit strikeout game of the month, and finishes May with a 1.83 ERA. Kluber has not walked a batter during his last 28 1/3 innings.
Kluber has recorded a quality start in 12 consecutive games to begin the year, tying the longest season-opening streak by an Indians pitcher since Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski began the 1918 campaign with 16 straight quality starts.
"Obviously every pitcher doesn't want to walk guys," Kluber said. "You want to attack guys, make them put the ball in play. You don't want to give them free passes. … But I think it helps to also limit damage and keep pitch counts in control."
Right-hander Shane Bieber is scheduled to be recalled from Triple-A Columbus and make his MLB debut Thursday against the Twins at Target Field (8:10 p.m. ET). Bieber threw a rain-shortened, seven-inning no-hitter last Friday, in his most recent start against Gwinnett. The Twins will counter with RHP Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.34 ERA).
Casey Harrison is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.