CLEVELAND — Dominating outings from Corey Kluber are becoming the norm. It’s no wonder Indians manager Terry Francona loves putting the right-hander’s name on the lineup card every five days.
“It’s sure nice to write his name in there,” Francona said after watching Kluber pitch his team to a 4-1 victory Sunday over the Royals that clinched the series for Cleveland. “He has weapons and he has poise and he competes.
“He was really good.”
That may be an understatement.
Kluber made just one mistake through 8⅓ innings — an ill-located fastball that Mike Moustakas deposited into the right-field seats for Kansas City’s only run with one out in the fifth.
Kluber allowed only four hits and walked one while striking out 10. It marked the third time this season Kluber has fanned at least 10 batters and walked one or fewer.
It appeared he was in line to toss the second complete game of the season and his career when Kluber struck out Salvador Perez for the first out of the ninth after allowing a leadoff double to Eric Hosmer.
But Francona came to get Kluber at 109 pitches and was greeted by boos from the Progressive Field crowd, which gave Kluber a rousing ovation as he headed to the dugout.
“That’s a good thing,” Francona said of the boos. “If they want our guys to stay in and it’s the ninth, something good is happening. I don’t blame them. If I was managing with my heart, I would have left him in there, too.
“We wanted him to face Perez, and he did a good job. After that, we thought Cody (Allen) matched up well with the next two guys.”
Kluber said he heard the boos and that second baseman Jason Kipnis jokingly gave Francona the business for removing the pitcher.
“Obviously when you go back out there your goal is to finish the game, but I’m not going to second-guess Tito,” Kluber said.
Though the Indians didn’t score often, they did enough against a talented left-handed starter in Danny Duffy, who entered the day with a 2.60 ERA in 17 games (11 starts). Cleveland tagged Duffy for a season-high 10 hits and scored three times in the second inning on home runs from Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes.
“I thought when he left his fastball over the plate, we hit it,” Francona said of Duffy. “I thought we had a good approach. You saw power, you saw finesse.”
Pitching-wise, you saw another dominating outing from Kluber.
“I only see him getting better,” said Michael Brantley, who continued his All-Star season with a 2-for-4 effort that included his team-leading 57th RBI. “He attacks hitters so well. He’s going to be good for a long time to come.”
Kluber had a solid season last year — 11-5, 3.85 ERA — but few outside the Indians organization predicted he would be among the American League’s top starting pitchers this season.
“I had confidence coming into the year, no doubt,” Kluber said. “I think I proved myself last year that I’m capable of being a successful pitcher in the big leagues, so I think I carried that confidence into this year.”