CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber is rounding into mid-season form and capped off the month of June with another standout performance on Thursday.
Over eight innings of work, Kluber allowed just one run, on a solo home run in the first inning, scattered three hits, as well as one walk, and registered 12 strikeouts as the Indians earned a 5-1 win over the Texas Rangers in an afternoon game at Progressive Field.
Thursday’s win was Kluber’s fourth in the month of June and marked the sixth straight game in which he went at least six innings. In Kluber’s 12 starts this season, only once has he failed to make it through the sixth inning.
Kluber has struck out 25 batters over his last two starts and registered at least 10 strikeouts in all but one of his six June starts.
The Indians had to come from behind to win the regular-season series finale, as the Rangers got on the scoreboard before Cleveland even had a chance to go to the plate.
With two out after Kluber set down right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and shortstop Elvis Andrus on strikes, looking and swinging respectively, left fielder Nomar Mazara smashed an 0-2 pitch deep into the first level of right-field seats.
Although Kluber gave up the homer, he recovered to get a groundout for the final out of the inning.
Then, after a lead-off single from second baseman Rougned Odor in the top of the second inning, Kluber settled into a groove and struck out center fielder Carlos Gomez, catcher Robinson Chirinos and first baseman Mike Napoli, all on swinging third strikes.
With Kluber dialed in, the Indians’ offense gave him the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third inning.
Catcher Yan Gomes led off with a single to center field, and center fielder Bradley Zimmer hustled his way down the line for an infield single. Both Gomes and Zimmer moved up a base on a wild pitch from Rangers starter Andrew Cashner.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor drew the Indians even with an RBI groundout to second base, and after left fielder Michael Brantley drew a four-pitch walk, Zimmer slid around a tag attempt on a second wild pitch from Cashner, this time with designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion at the plate.
The Indians added onto their lead with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Brantley got things going with a lead-off double to the wall in right field, and then, came around to score when Encarnacion smoked a broken-bat RBI single to right field.
Encarnacion went from first base to third when third baseman Jose Ramirez smacked a double to right field, and both runners were brought in when pinch hitter Lonnie Chisenhall took a 1-1 pitch from reliever Nick Martinez into right field for a two-run double.
Chisenhall’s two-run hit gave him nine RBI in pinch-hit situations this season, the most of any player in the American League.
With the win, the Indians (42-36, 18-21 at Progressive Field) maintained at least a half-game lead in first place in the American League Central Division standings heading into a four-game weekend series with the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
The Indians took three of four from the Rangers in the series. With the three wins in four days, the Indians won six of their seven games against Texas this season.
The Rangers fell to 39-40 with the loss.
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