CHICAGO -- There are several ways to examine how critical Corey Kluber has been to the Indians' rise to the rank of World Series contender over the past few seasons. There are the strikeouts, the surplus of innings and, of course, the two American League Cy Young Awards.Using a pitcher's
CHICAGO -- There are several ways to examine how critical Corey Kluber has been to the Indians' rise to the rank of World Series contender over the past few seasons. There are the strikeouts, the surplus of innings and, of course, the two American League Cy Young Awards.
Using a pitcher's win-loss record as a means for evaluation is a flawed practice, but that does not mean certain milestones in that category should not be appreciated. On Monday night, Kluber was dominant once again in a 4-0 victory over the White Sox, picking up his 20th win, which remains a special number even in this day and age of advanced metrics.
"We were all nervous for him," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He probably wasn't. We were. It meant probably more to us than it did to him."
Asked if he had any nerves over approaching the milestone, the stoic Kluber cracked a smile.
"No," he said.
As Kluber spoke at his locker inside the visitors' clubhouse at Guaranteed Rate Field, reliever Dan Otero walked behind the crowd of reporters. Otero lifted his arms in the air, holding up two fingers with one hand and forming a zero with the other.
Around the locker room, Kluber's teammates lauded the ace for his achievement.
"That's awesome," said Indians closer Cody Allen. "He's been close a few times -- pitched his tail off the last few years. There's been quite a few games where I've blown a win for him or we didn't score. For him to kind of check that off his [list], put that on his resume, it was pretty cool. He's extremely deserving of it."
Kluber -- an 18-game winner in 2014, '16 and '17 -- is the first Indians pitcher to notch at least 20 wins in a season since 2008, when lefty Cliff Lee went 22-3 en route to an AL Cy Young Award. Cleveland's current ace is the first Tribe right-hander to collect 20 since 1974, when Gaylord Perry racked up 21. Kluber joins Rays lefty Blake Snell as the only pitchers to reach that benchmark to date this season.
On the year, Kluber is 20-7 with a 2.83 ERA in 210 innings, in which the ace has amassed 216 strikeouts with as many walks (32) as starts.
"It's a cool accomplishment," Kluber said. "It's something to be proud of, but I think it just means that -- the way I look at it -- is I gave us a chance to win a lot of times. I think that there's times where they probably picked me up when I didn't."
Against the White Sox, Kluber piled up 11 strikeouts over seven shutout innings, marking his seventh double-digit showing of the season and 46th of his career. The right-hander leaned heavily on his sinker and cutter, turning to his signature curveball as a wipeout pitch that eluded Chicago's bats as it tailed low and out of the zone.
Kluber registered 22 called strikes and 19 swinging strikes along the way, ending the evening with four hits scattered and one walk allowed. It marked the 33rd time in Kluber's career that he finished with at least 10 strikeouts and no more than one walk, which is the eighth-most outings of that kind in MLB history.
In his past 11 starts against the White Sox, Kluber is 9-0 with a 1.81 ERA in 74 2/3 innings.
"'Kluber did the same thing he's continued to do," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "He attacks the strike zone, stays below the zone, ball fades out, works both sides of the plate, runs balls in, catches you, locks you up, mixes his pitches well. He got us quite a few times."
White Sox starter Dylan Covey matched Kluber over six innings, holding Cleveland's watered-down lineup to no runs, six hits and an 0-for-7 showing with runners in scoring position. After Covey exited, Brandon Guyer and Adam Rosales each added a home run off the Chicago bullpen to help the Tribe pull away.
"He's just a workhorse," Guyer said of Kluber. "He takes care of himself. He's out there every start. It's just consistency. You know what you're going to get every time he's out there. It's fun to play behind a guy like that. It's something that you feel you have a good chance to win every time he's pitching."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The right stuff: With a handful of regulars out of the lineup, Guyer got a rare start against a right-handed pitcher. The Indians outfielder, who is typically used against lefties, had a .171 average (14-for-82) and .474 OPS off righties going into Monday's game. Covey held Guyer to an 0-for-1 showing, but then the outfielder launched a leadoff homer to left off right-hander Ian Hamilton in the seventh inning.
"At that point, we didn't have anything to show for it," Francona said. "Fortunately, Klube was keeping them off. And then Guyer takes one good swing, and then we added on in the ninth, which is great."
Home-run sprint: Rosales gave the Indians some insurance in the ninth, when he smoked a one-out solo shot down the left-field line off reliever Nate Jones. Rosales never slowed into a trot, burning around the basepaths in 16.23 seconds, per Statcast™. That represented the swiftest home-to-home time this season for an over-the-fence home run. The previous fastest was 16.33 seconds by Adam Eaton on Aug. 18. For perspective, Edwin Encarnacion's inside-the-park homer for the Indians on April 2 clocked in at 18.86 seconds.
"I've just been doing it since I was a kid," Rosales said. "Ever since I've been a kid, I always promised myself, 'Hey, as far as I can go playing baseball, I'm always going to play the same way I did when I was 10, 12 years old.'"
Miller to Allen: Following Kluber's gem, relief ace Andrew Miller faced the minimum in the eighth, striking out two in the process. It was a solid showing, given that the lefty logged a season-high 31 pitches on Saturday. That set things up for Allen, who had not pitched since Sept. 15 as part of a planned down period. The righty retired the side in order with two strikeouts to seal the win.
This marked the 30th game this season in which an Indians pitcher registered at least 10 strikeouts. That is tied with the Astros for the most in MLB and tied (also with the 2002 D-backs) for the third-most in a season in baseball history. The '01 D-backs (36) and 1973 Angels (32) are the only clubs with more.
HE SAID IT
"They told me I was starting last night. I knew that Kluber was on the mound. He was going for his 20th win. I was excited to be playing second base for him. It's always a cool opportunity to play behind a guy like that." -- Rosales, who filled in for Jose Ramirez
Trevor Bauer (12-6, 2.21 ERA) will continue his bid to join the postseason rotation on Tuesday, when he takes the mound against the White Sox at 8:10 p.m. ET at Guaranteed Rate Field. Bauer, who was activated from the disabled list on Friday, is scheduled to throw 60-65 pitches, with righty Carlos Carrasco following out of the bullpen. Chicago will counter with righty James Shields (7-16, 4.48).
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.