CHICAGO — As dominant of a pitcher as Corey Kluber may be, when the Cleveland Indians ace is provided with an early dose of offense, he becomes even more dangerous.
And at a time when the Indians already seem untouchable, lights-out pitching and timely hitting are proving to be a winning combination.
Kluber struck out 13, and Erik Gonzalez hit two of Cleveland’s five homers as the Indians won a franchise-record 15th straight game, beating the Chicago White Sox 11-2 on Thursday night.
The Indians won 14 straight last season, and they became the first team since the 1935-36 Chicago Cubs to win 14 or more consecutive games in back-to-back seasons.
Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor and Greg Allen also went deep for the Indians.
Kluber (15-4) cruised after the Indians jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and kept adding to it with the collection of home runs.
“When you’ve got a guy like Kluber on the mound and you score early, man, it sure makes you feel good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
As good as Francona may have felt about Thursday’s team record-setting result that comes a season after the Indians won an American League pennant, he and his team aren’t getting too wrapped up with such things.
“One game at a time,” Kluber said of the Indians’ approach. “It sounds boring, but that’s what we’re doing — coming to the field every day prepared to win that day’s ballgame.”
Kluber, who struck out at least 10 for the 14th time this season, allowed three hits and two runs while walking one over seven innings. He retired 20 of the final 22 hitters he faced.
Gonzalez, who homered in the third and ninth innings, drove in four runs. Allen hit his first career home run as part of a three-run seventh inning. Lindor went 3-for-6 with three runs and finished a double shy of hitting for the cycle.
It was more than enough for Kluber, who recovered after giving up a pair of solo home runs in the first inning.
“(It was just about) adjusting to what their approach was,” Kluber said. “I just kind of felt like they were swinging at every pitch hoping it was going to be a fastball, but when we went to more off-speed, it took them awhile to make the adjustment.”
The Indians jumped on White Sox emergency starter Mike Pelfrey (3-11) for four first-inning runs. After Lindor’s leadoff triple, Austin Jackson followed with an RBI double. Pelfrey then walked Yandy Diaz before Encarnacion hit a three-run home run to stake Cleveland to a 4-0 lead.
Lindor led off the second inning with a solo home run before Gonzalez drilled a two-run homer off Pelfrey in the third inning to extend the lead to 7-2.
Pelfrey, who started after left-hander Carlos Rodon was forced to miss his scheduled start with shoulder stiffness, gave up seven runs and eight hits over four innings. Pelfrey struck out four and walked three.
Rodon said after the game that his shoulder didn’t feel right while he was warming up. He felt tightness and knew he couldn’t go.
That forced manager Rick Renteria’s hand.
“You hate to use a guy and wear him out, but (Pelfrey) was going to eat up as many pitches as he could, hold as many innings as he could get through,” Renteria said.
The White Sox got on the board in the first inning when Yolmer Sanchez and Jose Abreu each both hit solo home runs. But it was far from being enough to slow down the Indians, who will look to extend their winning streak on Friday at home against the Baltimore Orioles after going 11-0 on the road trip that concluded Thursday night.
“It’s lots of fun,” Lindor said. “We’ve won lots of game because everybody is contributing and everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do. The whole team is having fun — it’s not just one player.”
NOTES: Indians 3B Yandy Diaz left the game due to a left elbow contusion after being hit by a pitch. ... Cleveland 3B Jose Ramirez missed the game with a sore right wrist. Manager Terry Francona said Ramirez could miss a couple of games. ... RHP Jake Petricka was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right elbow strain. Manager Rick Renteria said he was uncertain whether Petricka, who is 1-1 with a 7.01 ERA in 27 appearances, would return this season. ... White Sox OF Willy Garcia was sent on a rehabilitation assignment to Class A Kannapolis. Garcia has been on the DL since Aug. 1 after sustaining a concussion following a collision with teammate Yoan Moncada.