There was a sense of familiarity within the confines of the newly named Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday night.
Corey Kluber regained his dominant form, Jason Kipnis returned to second base and Jose Ramirez found his way back to the hot corner as part of a 3-0 rout of the Chicago White Sox.
For Kluber, the outing marked his fourth career shutout and provided the road nine’s premier bullpen with a day of rest.
Kluber makes his mark
The pitcher-catcher battery of Kluber and Yan Gomes was in harmony throughout all nine scoreless innings pitched. Kluber allowed five opposing runners to reach base (three singles, two walks), none of which advanced past second base.
“That was so nice to see,” said manager Terry Francona to reporters after the game. “It looked like to me like he got stronger as it went. He kind of smelled it, then he just started going back and forth – fastball (and) off-speed – he was pretty good.”
The 2014 AL Cy Young winner mixed pinpoint command (66.4% strikes) with a weak contact rate (82.4-mph average exit-velocity) to record a much more characteristic outing – 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R/ER, 2 BB, 9 K (110 pitches, 73 strikes, nine groundouts, three flyouts).
“I had a better feel for [my cutter] today,” Kluber said. “Aside from [Carlos Carrasco], I don’t think any of us were very happy with the way we threw the first couple times around. There’s no reason of dwelling on it, we just kind of put our heads down and went to work. Hopefully this is more of a sign of things to come.”
Guyer blasts bats to victory
Although offense was few and far between for both clubs, the Tribe was able to score when the moment called for it.
Francona employed a station-to-station strategy in the third inning by using Gomes to bunt Austin Jackson to third base with one out. Shortly thereafter, opposing starter Jose Quintana lost the grip on an 89.2-mph fastball for a wild pitch, allowing Jackson to score.
“[Quintana’s] tough against everybody, we just face him so much,” said Francona. “We did a good job of laying off some pitches that were just off the plate because you can’t do anything with them.”
Brandon Guyer furthered the effort with a two-run homer, a missile launched to dead center field with a 101-mph exit velocity and 24-degree launch angle to plate Kipnis in the fourth.
“We need him to be really dangerous against left-handers,” Francona said. “The first couple weeks he hasn’t really found his stroke yet. That’s really welcome.”
Cleveland batted .207 (6-for-29), but took advantage of the big fly and lights out pitching to claim its fourth consecutive win on the road trip.
“We did some really good things,” said Francona. “It looks good because we were crisp and we got a well-pitched game and we caught the ball. That’s a good way to play.”
Central Division update
Joe Jimenez and the Tigers (8-8) bullpen collapsed and gave up a six-run frame to lose 6-3 to the Twins (8-8).
Cole Hamels fired eight frames of one-run ball to keep the Kansas City (7-9) offense at bay.
The Indians and White Sox resume play on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET from Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Ill.
RHP Carlos Carrasco (1-1, 2.33) is in search of his fourth consecutive quality start after surrendering two runs in 6.2 innings in a tough-luck loss to Detroit last Sunday.
RHP Mike Pelfrey (0-0, -.--) will make his 2017 debut due to James Shields’ strained right latissimus dorsi muscle and 10-day DL designation on Friday.