May 13, 2015 10:35 PM
Kluber strikes out 18 as Indians top Cardinals 2-0
The Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) Corey Kluber shrugged his shoulders at making history.
He was just as dismissive with the Cardinals.
Kluber struck out 18 the most by an AL pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1998 and allowed just one hit in eight innings to get his first win this season in style, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 2-0 win over St. Louis on Wednesday night.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner, Kluber (1-5) didn't yield a hit until Jhonny Peralta grounded a clean single to center with two outs in the seventh. A small crowd of 12,313 on a crisp night at Progressive Field gave Kluber a warm ovation and he finished the inning by striking out Jason Heyward.
Kluber's 18 strikeouts tied the club record for a nine-inning game held by Bob Feller (1938), the late Indians legend who had a new exhibit opened at the ballpark in his honor before the game. As usual, the stoic Kluber wasn't impressed by his own performance, taking it in stride.
"Any time that you throw your name in there with Bob Feller that's obviously very humbling and a great accomplishment," he said. "Moreso important is obviously getting the win."
Kluber, who didn't walk a batter, had a chance to break the major league mark of 20 strikeouts shared by Clemens and Kerry Wood, but he was pulled before the ninth after 113 pitches for closer Cody Allen, who struck out one in getting his fifth save.
Third-base coach Brad Mills, filling in for ejected manager Terry Francona, was the one who made the move with Kluber.
"Millsy knows what he's doing," said Francona. "You can't manage with your heart."
According to information provided by the Indians, it's just the second time since 1900 that a team has recorded 19 or more strikeouts while allowing one or less hits in a game.
The Indians haven't had a no-hitter since Len Barker's perfect game on May 15, 1981, and Cleveland hasn't had much to celebrate so far in 2015.
But Kluber, who came in 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA, finally had the kind of start the team came to expect from him when he went 18-9 last season.
Relying heavily on a fastball in the mid-90s, the right-hander, who recently shaved off his beard as a Mother's Day gift to his wife, Amanda, struck out the side in three innings and set down 18 straight batters after hitting Matt Holliday with a pitch in the first.
"Everything," Francona said when asked what Kluber had working. "He elevated. He cut it. He spun it. He two-seamed it. He had everything going."
The Cardinals, who came in with the majors' best record, were no match.
"I think we got a taste of why he won the Cy Young last year," said third baseman Matt Carpenter, who went 0 for 3 and struck out twice against Kluber. "His numbers this season don't reflect how good of a pitcher he is. He was as good, if not better, than anybody I've ever faced in the big leagues."
Kluber nailed Holliday on the left elbow with a 94 mph fastball, dropping the outfielder to one knee and knocking him from the game. Holliday's plunking touched off a back-and-forth of tight pitches between the teams.
When Cardinals starter John Lackey (2-2) retaliated for Holliday and hit Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis in the fourth, plate umpire Mike Everitt issued warnings to both dugouts, prompting Francona to come out and argue.
Francona was quickly ejected, but Kipnis was hit again in the sixth by reliever Randy Choate to load the bases. Kipnis singled in the eighth and made sure the Cardinals saw him flip his bat as he headed toward first.
Brandon Moss and David Murphy had RBI singles in the first off Lackey, who allowed two runs in 5 1-3 innings.
Kluber was locked in from the outset. He struck out two in the first and one in the second before setting the side down in order in the third and fourth. Before Peralta's single on a 2-0 pitch, the Cardinals didn't even put good wood on the ball against Kluber.
Kipnis is now batting .385 (25 of 65) with three homers, 11 RBIs and 13 runs since moving to the top of the order on April 26. He's reached base safely in 14 of 16 games batting first.
Cardinals: C Yadier Molina (upper back stiffness) started after leaving Tuesday's game in the ninth inning. OF Jon Jay (sore thumb) didn't start for the third straight game.
Indians: LHP TJ House (sore shoulder) will make a minor league rehab start at Class-A Lake County on Friday. C Yan Gomes (sprained right knee) could see action at designated hitter for Lake County this weekend. Gomes has been out since April 11, injured in a home-plate collision in the second home game.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (5-0) will start Thursday's series finale and look to remain unbeaten in his seventh start. His five-game winning streak is second best in the majors, trailing only Seattle's Felix Hernandez, who has won six straight.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer (2-1) lost his first decision of the season in his last start against Minnesota. He hasn't won since April 15 against the White Sox, his second start of the season.