CLEVELAND (AP) – Corey Kluber struck out 18 and allowed his only hit in the seventh inning, getting his first win this season in style and leading the Cleveland Indians to a 2-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner, Kluber (1-5) didn’t yield a hit until Jhonny Peralta grounded a clean single to center with two outs in the seventh. A small crowd of 12,313 on a crisp night at Progressive Field gave Kluber a warm ovation and he finished the inning by striking out Jason Heyward.
Kluber’s 18 strikeouts tied the club record for a nine-inning game held by Hall of Famer Bob Feller (1938.) It’s also the most strikeouts by an AL pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1998.
Kluber, who didn’t walk a batter, had a chance to break the major league mark of 20 strikeouts shared by Clemens and Kerry Wood, but he was pulled before the ninth after 113 pitches for closer Cody Allen, who got his fifth save.
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 came in 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA, but finally got his first win in his eighth start. However, as has been the case all season with the disappointing Indians, it wasn’t easy.
Relying heavily on a fastball in the mid-90s, the right-hander, who recently shaved off his beard, struck out the side in three innings and set down 18 straight batters after hitting Matt Holliday with a pitch in the first.
Kluber nailed Holliday on the left elbow with a 94 mph fastball, dropping the outfielder to one knee and knocking him from the game. 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.
Brandon Moss and David Murphy had RBI singles in the first off Lackey, who allowed two runs in 5 1-3 innings.
Kluber was locked in from the outset. He struck out two in the first and one in the second before setting the side down in order in the third and fourth. Before Peralta’s single, the Cardinals didn’t even put good wood on the ball against Kluber, who went 18-9 last season with a 2.44 ERA.
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.