CLEVELAND Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter had three at-bats against Corey Kluber. Twice he failed to make contact.
He wasn’t alone.
Kluber struck out 18 – the most by an AL pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1998 – and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Jhonny Peralta singled with two outs as the Cleveland Indians downed St. Louis 2-0 on Wednesday night.
Kluber (1-5) dominated the Cardinals, getting his first win this season in style. He matched Hall of Famer Bob Feller’s 77-year-old club record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game and held a team with baseball’s best record to a measly single.
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“I think we got a taste of why he won the Cy Young last year,” said Carpenter, who went 0 for 3 and struck out twice against the right-hander. “His numbers this season don’t reflect how good of a pitcher he is. He was as good, if not better, than anybody I’ve ever faced in the big leagues.”
The Cardinals barely got good wood on the ball against Kluber, who didn’t walk a batter and coasted through St. Louis’ lineup, striking out the side in three innings. With a chance to break the major league mark of 20 strikeouts shared by Clemens and Kerry Wood, Kluber was pulled after eight innings and 113 pitches for closer Cody Allen, who struck out one while getting his fifth save in a perfect ninth.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny was more than impressed with Kluber, who struck out six straight in one span and retired 18 in a row after hitting Matt Holliday on the left elbow in the first.
“You don’t strike out that many guys if you’re not on top of your game,” Matheny said. “He made pitches all night long. He had good velocity without much effort. It was getting on guys and he was climbing the ladder and getting high strikes. His breaking stuff was very sharp. He locates everything and didn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
The Indians haven’t had a no-hitter since Len Barker’s perfect game on May 15, 1981, and Cleveland hasn’t had much to celebrate so far in 2015.
Kluber was seven outs away when Peralta grounded a 2-0 pitch through the middle.
“That’s the only way we could get a hit,” Peralta said. “On 2-0, I knew he was coming with a fastball. He threw right in the middle right there.”
Kluber came in 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA, but finally got his first win in his eighth start. Relying heavily on a fastball in the mid-90s, the right-hander, who recently shaved off his beard as a Mother’s Day gift for his wife, Amanda, nailed Holliday with a 94 mph fastball, dropping the outfielder to one knee and knocking him from the game.
X-rays taken on Holliday were negative and Matheny said the slugger is day to day.
Holliday’s plunking touched off a back-and-forth of tight pitches between the teams.
When Cardinals starter John Lackey (2-2) retaliated for Holliday and hit Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis in the fourth, plate umpire Mike Everitt issued warnings to both dugouts, prompting Indians manager Terry Francona to come out and argue.
Francona was quickly ejected, but Kipnis was hit again in the sixth by reliever Randy Choate to load the bases. Kipnis singled in the eighth and made sure the Cardinals saw him flip his bat as he headed toward first.
Lackey, who gave up RBI singles to Brandon Moss and David Murphy in the first, felt Kluber had better control than to have a pitch strike Holliday.
“He was throwing a no-hitter,” he said. “It looked like he knew where it was going pretty good.”
Kluber’s 18 strikeouts are the most by one pitcher against a St. Louis team. Brooklyn’s Dazzy Vance struck out 17 Cardinals in 1925.
Cardinals: C Yadier Molina (upper back stiffness) started Wednesday after leaving Tuesday’s game in the ninth inning. OF Jon Jay (sore thumb) didn’t start for the third straight game.
Indians: LHP TJ House (sore shoulder) will make a minor league rehab start at Class-A Lake County on Friday. C Yan Gomes (sprained right knee) could see action at designated hitter for Lake County this weekend. Gomes has been out since April 11, injured in a home-plate collision in the second home game.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (5-0) will start Thursday’s series finale and look to remain unbeaten in his seventh start. His five-game winning streak is second best in the majors, trailing only Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, who has won six straight.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer (2-1) lost his first decision of the season in his last start against Minnesota. He hasn’t won since April 15 against the White Sox, his second start of the season.