CLEVELAND — After a less than fruitful series against Central Division rival Minnesota, the Indians returned to Progressive Field on Tuesday night and got back on track.
There was no surprise that ace Corey Kluber was on the mound to reverse their fortunes.
Kluber turned in another stifling performance and Cleveland opened a two-game interleague series against first-place Milwaukee with a 3-2 victory.
Kluber allowed a run in the third inning, but nothing more, limiting the Brewers to seven hits, while striking out seven over seven innings.
“Oh, I thought he was good,” manager Terry Francona said of Kluber, who notched his American League-leading ninth win. “In the third, they bunched three hits together, but other than that ... no walks, seven strikeouts. Early in the game he fell behind a few times 3-1, then fought his way back into the count. And then as the game went on, he just started throwing strikes.”
That’s about all Kluber threw.
For the fifth consecutive start (351⁄3 innings), Kluber did not walk a batter. It is the longest streak by a Cleveland pitcher since Paul Byrd went 48 innings in 2007.
“I think he’s got 10 all year,” Francona said of Kluber’s walk total over 13 starts and 912⁄3 innings. “He’s such a pro. He and (catcher Yan Gomes) have a great rapport together. My goodness, I’m sure he’s fun to catch because he is just in such command of what he’s doing. His command is tremendous.”
“My goal is to go out there and pound the strike zone, regardless of what their approach is,” Kluber said. “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.”
Kluber’s consistency has reached elite levels. He has begun the season with 13 straight quality starts and has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last 25 regular-season starts dating back to 2017.
“My guess would be just going back to the day-to-day routines,” said Kluber, who since the beginning of last year has allowed one or fewer runs in 22 of his 42 outings. “My assumption would be that work in between starts probably contributes to consistency more than when you’re in the game.
“When a start doesn’t go well, it’s good to have that routine to fall back on so that you can kind of stay on track, so to speak. It’s pretty easy when you’re struggling or things don’t go your way to kind of abandon ship and then all of the sudden you start searching and pulling things from all over the place.”
The Indians struck early against right-hander Junior Guerra, who entered the night with a 2.65 ERA over 10 starts.
Cleveland loaded the bases with one out in the second inning and Lonnie Chisenhall, in his first at-bat since leaving the disabled list, delivered a two-run single.
“How bout that?” Francona said of Chisenhall’s immediate impact. “That was very welcome. The kid Guerra for them has good stuff. He’s got good numbers to match it. It was nice to get Kluber a lead.”
Jose Ramirez put the Indians up 3-1 with his 19th home run in the third inning. Only Boston’s J.D. Martinez has more homers in the majors.
Cleveland got a scoreless inning of relief work from Neil Ramirez in the eighth, but not from closer Cody Allen in the ninth.
Allen allowed a leadoff homer to Travis Shaw on his third pitch, but retired the next three hitters to earn his 10th save.
“We thought about starting to match up and we’re like, ‘No, let’s give (Ramirez) three hitters to let him settle in,’ and he didn’t need any more than that. So that was really welcome,” Francona said. “Everybody sees the stuff, but his breaking ball is starting to get some depth to it, which gives him a little different look. You can tell the difference.
“(The homer) affected his ERA. It didn’t affect the win and I think (Allen’s) smart enough to know that.”
Edwin Encarnacion, the reigning AL player of the week, extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-out double in the eighth inning. Encarnacion is batting .419 (18-for-43) with six homers, four doubles and 15 RBIs during the streak.
“For whatever (reason), it takes him a while,” Francona said. “But once he gets going, it’s fun to watch.”