While Corey Kluber may not be a household name, he has certainly established himself in the Cleveland Indians’ rotation.
The Texas Rangers became all too familiar with him last month.
Kluber tries to continue his recent home dominance Friday night when the Indians open a three-game set against the slumping Rangers.
After going 2-5 with a 5.14 ERA in 12 starts toward the end of last year, Kluber (7-5, 3.69 ERA) has shined since taking over for injured starter Brett Myers. The right-hander has been especially good at home of late, going 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA over a five-start stretch.
“It’s because of guys like him - you’ve heard me refer to the glass being half full a lot of times, and that’s why. We’re trying to fight it out in this division with guys like Corey and we’re excited about it,” manager Terry Francona, whose team is three games behind AL Central-leading Detroit, told the Indians’ official website.
“He’s getting better, it seems like, almost every start, whether he’s learning something or gaining experience. And, in the meantime, he’s winning games.”
Kluber allowed three hits and struck out seven over five innings in Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Minnesota, extending his scoreless streak to 12 2-3 innings before leaving with tightness in his left hip.
“It’s something I can pitch through,” he said. “It was just a precautionary move.”
Kluber was at his best in a 5-2 win at Texas on June 11, yielding one run and six hits in a career high-tying eight innings.
“We kind of talked about how they’re a really aggressive team,” said Kluber, who grew up in the Arlington area. “We kind of used that against them a little bit. I was expanding on them and getting them to chase some pitches, and getting soft contact.”
Kluber would appear to have another favorable matchup against a Rangers team that has dropped nine of 12. Texas (56-46) has scored just 28 runs during that stretch while going 13 for 79 (.165) with runners in scoring position.
The Rangers went 0 for 4 in such situations Thursday in a 2-0 loss to the New York Yankees in which they were limited to seven singles.
Mitch Moreland has one hit in his last 18 at-bats and is mired in a 12-for-72 funk. Nelson Cruz, who is 4 for his last 27, is hitting .140 with no homers in his last 15 games versus Cleveland.
The Indians (53-48) return home after concluding a 2-4 road trip with Wednesday’s 10-1 win over Seattle. Michael Bourn hit his first career grand slam and Asdrubal Cabrera, who also went deep, had two hits, three RBIs and four runs.
“That was much-needed and a good day,” Francona said. “It’s just nice to bounce back, because we had a couple tough ones. It was good to see our guys see some results.”
Cleveland will try to keep things going against Martin Perez (3-3, 3.40), who has allowed nine runs in 12 innings while losing back-to-back starts. The left-hander, whose lone appearance versus the Indians consisted of a four-pitch walk last September, gave up four runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings in a 4-2 defeat to Baltimore on Sunday.
While the Rangers have won 14 of 18 at Progressive Field, the Indians are 28-13 at home since April 30 - the AL’s second-best record over that stretch.