Cleveland’s Corey Kluber allowed a run on just two hits to become the first 18-game winner in the major leagues, and Edwin Encarnacion’s fifth-inning RBI groundout produced the deciding run as the Indians defeated the Kansas City Royals 3-1 on Wednesday afternoon in Cleveland.
Kluber struck out 10 and walked just one in 6 2/3 innings of work, leaving with a runner at first base in the seventh. Oliver Perez struck out the Royals’ Brian Goodwin to end the inning.
Kluber (18-7, 2.75 ERA) retired Kansas City’s first 10 batters and ended up with five three up, three down innings. He is on the short list of candidates to win the Cy Young Award, going 6-1 in his past eight starts. He is a two-time Cy Young winner.
Cody Allen struck out two batters in a perfect eighth inning, and Brad Hand struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 32nd save and give the Indians the rubber game of a three-game series between the American League Central rivals.
The Indians did just enough to beat Kansas City, ripping 10 hits off Royals’ starter, and loser, Brad Keller (7-6). Keller pitched into the eighth, leaving with two runners on and no-out in favor of Brian Flynn, who gave up a sacrifice fly to Jason Kipnis that drove home Yonder Alonso and provided the Indians a key insurance run.
In four starts against Kansas City this year, Kluber is 3-1. Wednesday’s performance atoned for his last outing against the Royals, a 7-1 loss on Aug. 25 in which he gave up five runs and nine hits.
The Indians spotted Kluber a 1-0 lead in the second as Greg Allen’s two-out single drove home Kipnis, who had doubled and advanced to third on a single by Yan Gomes.
Kansas City tied the game in the fourth when Ryan O’Hearn tripled, also with two outs, to score Alex Gordon. Gordon reached on a double. Those two hits would end up being the only ones off Kluber in the game.
Encarnacion’s one-out groundout to third base in the fifth was hit too slowly to allow the Royals to turn a double play and gave Michael Brantley time to sprint home with the lead run.
With a 15-game lead over second-place Minnesota, Cleveland manager Terry Francona has begun to give selected players some days off. Left fielder Brantley didn’t play on Tuesday, and third baseman Jose Ramirez was not in the lineup on Wednesday.
—Field Level Media