CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber wasn’t an All-Star this year, but there’s little doubt the right-hander has been one of the American League’s top starting pitchers.
A National League team found that out Monday night at Progressive Field.
With Kluber offering up another stifling outing, the Indians rolled past Cincinnati 7-1 to open the two-game Ohio Cup series.
Kluber didn’t get his third straight complete game, but he was still dominant over 7⅓ innings, allowing just a run on six hits and two walks, while striking out seven.
“Like all pitchers, you go through periods where you have things working,” manager Terry Francona said. “Even when you’re not at your best, you’re still good, and I think that’s where Klubes is getting.
“I think there’s a lot of reasons. He handles everything. He throws hard and there’s late movement in both directions. That’s a huge part of what he does. Klubes doesn’t let much bother him.
“He’s got good enough stuff where you put that combination together, you kind of see the final result. He’s one of the best pitchers in the league.”
Kluber was at the forefront of Cleveland’s fourth straight victory and its eighth win in the last 11 games. The third-place Indians trail Central Division leader Detroit by 5½ games, trimming their deficit to 2½ games in the AL wild-card race.
Kluber (12-6, 2.55 ERA) allowed half of his hits over the first three innings, then settled in to retire 11 straight from the last two outs of the third to the leadoff batter in the seventh. His walk to former Indian Jack Hannahan with one out in the second inning was Kluber’s first since July 19.
“I started out not so great with my command, but I was able to reel it in and had better command in the middle of the game,” said Kluber, who has lost just once since June 20.
The lone run credited to Kluber scored with him in the dugout when left-hander Nick Hagadone allowed an RBI double to Brayan Pena after taking over in the eighth.
It was the first run charged to Kluber in 17 straight innings and the first earned run credited to him in 25 innings.
Cleveland handled Cincinnati’s All-Star starter Alfredo Simon, scoring five times off the right-hander over five innings.
The Indians scored once in the opening inning, with Lonnie Chisenhall landing a big blow on a three-run home run three batters into the fourth. Cleveland scored once on Michael Brantley’s RBI single in the fifth before Yan Gomes capped the output with a two-run homer to left in the eighth.
“We did a lot of good things offensively,” Francona said.
Gomes, who is riding a 10-game hitting streak, has been red-hot since the All-Star break, hitting .400 (24-for-60) with four homers and 15 RBIs in 18 games. His 15 homers this season rank second among AL catchers, while his 45 RBIs rank fourth in the majors at his position.
“I think he’s actually been pretty consistent all year,” Francona said. “For a guy that doesn’t walk a lot, a lot of times you’ll see the batting average fluctuate, especially with a catcher, just cause of the wear and tear. I think he’s been really consistent.”
WHO: Cleveland vs. Cincinnati
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Tomlin (5-7, 4.47 ERA) vs. Cueto (12-6, 2.05)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM