CLEVELAND -- Three times on Tuesday night, Corey Kluber slipped into a three-ball count. The last occurrence was in the fourth inning, when Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw then received a cutter over the heart of the plate, but flied out to left.Kluber carved up Milwaukee's lineup from there, turning
CLEVELAND -- Three times on Tuesday night, Corey Kluber slipped into a three-ball count. The last occurrence was in the fourth inning, when Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw then received a cutter over the heart of the plate, but flied out to left.
Kluber carved up Milwaukee's lineup from there, turning in the type of overpowering outing that has become like clockwork every five days for the Indians. The ace of Cleveland's staff has earned a reputation as one of the game's elite strike throwers, and he keeps finding ways to take things to another level. Lately, it has been by avoiding walks entirely.
"Kluber being Kluber," Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain said in the wake of the Tribe's 3-2 victory at Progressive Field.
Once again, Kluber took the mound and fired strike after strike after strike into catcher Yan Gomes' glove against a red-hot Brewers club that sits atop the National League Central. Backed by Jose Ramirez's 19th home run of the season, Kluber cruised through Milwaukee's order, finishing with zero walks for a fifth consecutive start.
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Kluber has faced 139 batters in a row without issuing a free pass and -- including the seven dominant frames logged against the Brewers -- has not walked a hitter in 35 1/3 straight innings. That is the longest such streak for a Cleveland pitcher since 2007, when control artist Paul Byrd went 48 innings without a walk.
"He's such a pro," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He and Gomer have a great rapport together and, my goodness, I'm sure he's fun to catch, because he's just in such command of what he's doing."
During his five walk-free starts, Kluber has posted a 0.81 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. Against the Brewers, the right-hander only flinched once. In the third inning, Kluber allowed a double to Manny Pina, who came around to score on a single by Cain. That was all Kluber would relinquish, improving to 9-2 with a 1.96 ERA.
All season long, opposing lineups have adopted a more aggressive approach against Kluber. Through the first two months, the ace has leaned more on his sinker than he did a year ago, exploiting that line of attack via early-count contact.
"If it's a two-pitch at-bat, you can't walk a guy," Kluber said. "I think that regardless of whether a team is aggressive or not, my approach is still to pound the strike zone and put the pressure on them and make them put the ball in play."
The Indians' order provided just enough support for Kluber with three runs off Milwaukee starter Junior Guerra.
Lonnie Chisenhall delivered a two-run single in the second inning and Ramirez crushed a pitch out to right field for a solo blast in the third. The homer was the fifth in the past nine games for Ramirez, who currently sits one behind Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez (20 home runs) for the Major League lead. Angels superstar Michael Trout also has 19 shots on the year.
Following Kluber's exit, Tribe reliever Neil Ramirez did his part in keeping the Brewers in check, setting down Cain, Christian Yelich and Jesus Aguilar in order. In the ninth, closer Cody Allen surrendered a leadoff blast to Shaw, who sent the pitch off the top of the foul pole down the right-field line to trim Cleveland's lead to one run.
That is where Milwaukee's late push ended, sealing another win for Kluber.
"I've seen him over the years," said Cain, who faced Kluber often during the outfielder's days with Kansas City. "He's as solid as any pitcher I know. He goes in there and gets the job done. Keeps you off balance the entire at-bat. That's why he's so consistent. He has great stuff."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Welcome back, Lon: The Indians first broke through against Guerra in the second inning, when the righty issued a walk to Edwin Encarnacion and then allowed singles to Yonder Alonso and Gomes to load the bases. That set the table for Chisenhall, who was activated from the disabled list prior to the game. In his first at-bat since April 4, the veteran outfielder drilled a pitch up the middle for a two-run single to give the Tribe a 2-0 lead.
"It was nice to be in a good situation," Chisenhall said. "Guys were on base in front of me. I always enjoy when guys are on base. We try to be aggressive, stay up the middle, and it worked out."
HE SAID IT
"We thought about starting to match up and we're like, 'No, let's give him three hitters, let him settle in.' And he didn't need any more than that, so that was really welcome. Everybody sees the stuff, but his breaking ball is starting to get some depth to it, which gives him a little different look. It's making him [better], you can tell a difference." --Francona, on Neil Ramirez
"A lot of guys, I think when they first come up, you want to make an impression, you want to try to make a name for yourself, so to speak. And I think he's in the spot now where he's comfortable with himself, he knows what type of player he is." --Kluber, on Jose Ramirez
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (6-4, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Tribe on Wednesday, when the Indians host the Brewers at 1:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field. Carrasco will be looking to tighten up his performance with two outs, having allowed 10 two-out runs in his past two starts. Milwaukee will counter with righty Chase Anderson (4-4, 4.85 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.