CHICAGO – This is the time of the season when baseball players get into round numbers. For a starting pitcher there’s nothing better than the symmetry of 20 wins.
For six innings Monday it didn’t look like Corey Kluber would get much of anything except another double-digit strikeout game and a no decision. Then Brandon Guyer ended the suspense with a leadoff homer in the seventh to give Kluber the only run he’d need as the Indians beat the White Sox, 4-0, at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Kluber is the first Indians’ pitcher to win 20 games since lefty Cliff Lee won 22 games and the Cy Young award in 2008. Kluber has already won two Cy Youngs and he was in consideration for a third this year even before he struck 11 in seven innings on Monday night.
Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry was the last Indians’ right-hander to win 20 games. Perry did it in 1974 so it’s been a while.
This year the only other pitcher in the big leagues with 20 wins is Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell. The left-hander is 21-5 with a 1.90 ERA.
Manager Terry Francona told reporters after the game that he was nervous because he wanted Kluber to get 20 wins. Kluber did not share his manager’s case of nerves.
“Twenty wins is cool. It’s a nice round number,” said Kluber. “But as long as we win the game, that’s the main goal.”
Kluber (20-7, 2.83) allowed four hits and walked one. He is 4-0 with a 0.96 ERA against the White Sox this season, holding them to three runs in 28 innings with 39 strikeouts.
“That’s awesome,” said Cody Allen, who made his first appearance since Sept. 7. “This guy has been close to 20 wins a few times the last few years. He’s pitched his tail off for us the last few years. There’s been quite a few games where I’ve blown a win for him or we haven’t scored.
“For him to put that on his resume. He’s extremely deserving of it.”
When Kluber faces the White Sox, he’s in a target rich environment. He is 9-0 in his last in his last 11 starts against Chicago and 13-4 in his career.
The lineup Francona sent against Dylan Covey and the White Sox did not include regulars Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, Josh Donaldson and Jason Kipnis.
The Indians went 11 innings Sunday night in a 4-3 win over Boston. It was their third extra inning game in the last four and Francona turned to his bench on Monday night.
Covey, who threw six scoreless innings against the Indians last week at Progressive Field, did it again Monday night. The Indians reached him for six hits, but couldn’t score. He struck out seven and walked one.
As soon as Covey left, Kluber and the Indians’ fortunes changed. Guyer hit a 1-1 pitch from Ian Hamilton over the fence in left to start the seventh. It was Guyer’s first homer since Aug. 6 and his seventh of the season.
The Indians gift-wrapped Kluber’s 20th win with three runs in the ninth. Adam Rosales started the rally with a homer just inside the left field foul pole to make it 2-0. Brandon Barnes and Edwin Encarnacion singled home runs.
Francona said before the game that he hoped Kluber won his 20th game Monday night. He added that he didn’t need 20 wins to prove how much he means to the Indians.
“There’s a difference when you’re kind of the work horse of the staff,” said Francona. “When you’re the guy that anchors it. You go up against a lot of number ones, there’s a little extra load there. He handles it, he has grown into it. I hope he wins 20 because it looks good. But other than that, he’s got my vote for all the other stuff.”
The Indians are 13-4 against Chicago this season.
Andrew Miller and Allen relieved Kluber with a scoreless inning each to complete the Tribe’s 17th shutout of the season.
What it means
Rosales circled the bases on his first homer as an Indian in 16.23 seconds, according to Statcast. It’s the fastest over-the-wall homer this season.
On April 2 against the Angels, Encarnacion circles the bases in 18.86 seconds on an inside-the-park home run.
“I’ve been doing it since I was a kid,” said Rosales of his home-run sprint. “Since I was a kid I always promised myself, ‘Hey, as far as I can go, I’m always going to play this game the same way I did when I was 10, 12 years old.'”
Told he had the fastest time in a over-the-wall home-run trot, Rosales laughed and said, “I was super excited to hit my first home run as a Cleveland Indian.”
Covey threw 96 pitches, 62 (65 percent) for strikes. Kluber threw 108 pitches, 75 (69 percent) for strikes.
Thanks for coming
The Indians and White Sox drew 18,217 fans to Guaranteed Rate Field on Monday night. First pitch was at 8:10 p.m. with a temperature of 70 degrees.
There was also 1,260 dogs in attendance. Ruff, ruff.
Right-hander Trevor Bauer (12-6, 2.21) will make his second start since coming off the disabled list on Tuesday. He’ll face the White Sox and right-hander James Shields (7-16, 4.48) at 8: 10 p.m. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM and WMMS will carr the game.
Baur will be limited to 60 to 65 pitches.