CHICAGO: Corey Kluber has performed nothing close to the way he pitched Tuesday in 10 previous starts with the Indians this season.
So maybe the suggestion to keep his wife, Amanda, and daughter, Kendall, close whenever he starts should be examined a little more closely. After all, wife and daughter were watching from the grandstand in each of his two 2012 wins, the most recent a 4-3 triumph over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field.
“That would get pretty expensive,” Kluber said, grinning.
Maybe so, but their presence might put that multi-year deal that much closer.
Kluber delivered seven solid innings, giving up two runs, four hits and three walks while throwing only 86 pitches.
“Corey did a very good job today,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He grew today as a pitcher.”
It certainly was a different kind of outing than Kluber watchers have become accustomed to seeing in his brief major-league career. Seldom did he have to fight through innings to stay on the mound, and there were no extended rallies against him.
His only problem came in the fifth, when gave up a leadoff home run to A.J. Pierzynski, which was followed by Dayan Viciedo’s drive into the left-field seats.
Kluber (2-4, 5.02 ERA) began to become worrisome that inning when he walked Gordon Beckham with one out. For some pitchers, particularly young and inexperienced pitchers, that sequence of events might lead to all-out collapse two or three batters hence. But Kluber struck out the next two batters and didn’t face the third until the sixth.
Rebounding from the two-homer jolt represented a new maturity level for Kluber. Acta was watching to see how his starter would react.
“That was key,” Acta said. “That’s what we were looking for. OK, let’s see if he can get through this inning.”
Not only that, Acta was curious about how Kluber would handle the White Sox in the seventh. Kluber retired the side in order to pass his next text.
“It was another challenge to see what would happen in the seventh,” Acta said. “He showed the moxie.”
Kluber explained that the sixth inning was a case of mind over matter.
“Basically, Rubin [pitching coach Rubin Niebla] came out and told me those were the only two bad pitches I threw,” he said. “I didn’t dwell on them; that could have turned into an advantage for them.”
Kluber was asked if he would have responded in the same positive way four months ago, when he was starting for Triple-A Columbus.
“I don’t know,” he said. “This is part of the learning process up here. I knew it was important for me not to think about those two home runs that much.”
Russ Canzler, who led the Tribe offense, spent most of the season at Triple-A with Kluber.
“I saw him do this in Columbus, where he would just shut down teams,” Canzler said. “I knew he had the ability to do these things, but you can’t just do it that easily.”
The Indians produced enough offense to let the White Sox know they weren’t going to go passively into Lake Michigan on water skis. Apparently, that was Canzler’s job.
Canzler hit his second home run in as many games and singled, driving in three runs and scoring two. Shin-Soo Choo abetted him by delivering two singles, one of which drove in a run.
“This felt really good,” Canzler said.
Vinnie Pestano, who was rocked for three runs in the eighth to lose Monday night, rallied Tuesday to throw a scoreless eighth.
Chris Perez earned his career-high 37th save but not before giving false hope to White Sox fans. Paul Konerko hit the first pitch of the ninth over the fence in left for his 25th home run of the year, and with two out, Perez walked two but got the third out on Alexei Ramirez’s grounder.
“Chris made it a little interesting early,” Acta said, “but I trust him.”
Acta doesn’t buy the idea that as leaders of the Central Division race, the White Sox give his club a little extra motivation.
“That’s the last thing we are thinking about,” he said. “We’re here to win ballgames. We’re not here to hurt somebody or knock them out.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.