CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians' hottest pitcher was on the mound Sunday, and it was fortunate for them that he was because Cleveland only scored two runs. But Corey Kluber made sure that was enough, pitching his team to a 2-0 victory over the Washington Nationals.
Kluber, a 27-year-old right-hander, pitched eight shutout innings, striking out eight with no walks and escaped a couple dicey jams without giving up a run.
"Right in front of our eyes we're seeing a kid mature into a really good pitcher," said Cleveland manager Terry Francona.
In his last two starts, the other being a 5-2 win at Texas, Kluber is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA. In those two starts Kluber has allowed one run on 13 hits, with 11 strikeouts and one walk in 16 innings.
In his last seven starts, going back to May 15, Kluber is 3-2 with a 2.51 ERA, with 45 strikeouts and just six walks in 43 innings.
"I think the key for him is he's pitching with so much confidence, and he's pitching aggressively," said Francona.
"I'm making adjustments quicker now, pitch-to-pitch instead of inning-to-inning," said Kluber, whose record overall this season improved to 5-4, with a 3.58 ERA.
The Indians won two of the three games in the weekend series with Washington, and only scored a total of four runs in the two victories. But their pitching was sensational. In a 2-1 win Friday, Justin Masterson and two relievers combined on a two-hitter. On Sunday, Kluber and reliever Vinnie Pestano combined on a seven-hit shutout.
Kluber's performance overshadowed the return to action of Washington starter Stephen Strasburg, who was activated off the disabled list prior to Sunday's game. In his first start since May 31, Strasburg pitched five innings, and the only hit he allowed drove in the only run he allowed.
Strasburg walked two batters in the first inning, and then retired eight in a row before walking Jason Kipnis with one out in the fourth inning. Kipnis stole second and went to third on a throwing error by Nationals catcher Jhonatan Solano.
Carlos Santana followed with a single up the middle, scoring Kipnis and giving Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
Strasburg was removed from the game after the fifth inning. He was charged with one run on one hit, with four walks and four strikeouts.
"He was really good, and he hadn't pitched in two weeks," said Cleveland centerfielder Michael Bourn.
"It was good to be out there after two weeks," said Strasburg. "I tried to pound the strike zone as much as I could, but it was a little bit hit or miss, which is to be expected."
Kluber, who threw 114 pitches in his eight innings of work, was hampered at times by the Indians' shoddy defense, which has made five errors in the last two games.
Twice in the space of three innings, Kluber was faced with runners at first and third with no outs. Errors led to those situations. But Kluber pitched out of both jams without a runner scoring.
"We would have been glad to get off with allowing one run, but he pitched out of it," said Francona.
In the fourth inning Kuber did so by striking out three batters in a row -- Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth, and Ian Desmond. In the sixth inning, Kluber pitched out of an identical jam by striking out Ryan Zimmerman and getting LaRoche to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"We had a bunch of runners on third with less than two outs, but we just didn't score," said Washington manager Davey Johnson. "We had the right guys up. It was just a frustrating day all around."
The Indians added an insurance run in the eighth inning, when Bourn doubled, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Aviles and scored on a sacrifice fly by Kipnis.
Pestano pitched the ninth inning to pick up his first save and the Indians' first save since May 23.
NOTES: Reliever Xavier Cedeno was optioned by the Nationals to Triple-A Syracuse prior to the game to make room on the roster for Strasburg. ... Washington second baseman Anthony Rendon had three hits in his last four at-bats Saturday and hits in his first three at-bats Sunday. ... Indians first baseman Nick Swisher, who has been bothered by a sore left shoulder, did not play Sunday. Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco has finished serving his seven-game suspension for intentionally throwing at a hitter earlier this season. He will start Monday night vs. Kansas City.