Kluber gunning for career-high 20th win vs. WhiteSox
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Corey Kluber has piled up accolades during his eight seasons in the majors.
The 32-year-old Alabama native has won two American League Cy Young awards. He has three All-Star selections. He helped guide the Cleveland Indians to the World Series in 2016, when he started Game 1 and earned the victory.
But there is one thing Kluber has yet to do in his career: Put together a 20-win season.
Kluber (19-7, 2.93 ERA) can change that Monday night when the Indians visit the Chicago White Sox to open a three-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field. He already has set a career high with 19 wins and has a chance to become the Indians' first 20-game winner since Cliff Lee went 22-3 in 2008.
The last pitcher before Lee to win 20 games for the Tribe was Gaylord Perry in 1974.
At 87-68, the Indians already have locked up their third consecutive AL Central title. They expect to face the Houston Astros in the AL Divisional Series while the Boston Red Sox will square off against the wild-card winner.
But Kluber has no interest in taking a long break before the playoffs. The right-hander wants to produce at least one more quality outing in order to stay sharp for the postseason.
"To me, it makes the most sense to still try to stay in that competitive frame of mind," Kluber said recently to MLB.com. "I don't want to go out there and feel like it's spring training or something like that, just because we've already clinched. I think the best way to stay locked in is to kind of keep your foot on the gas, so to speak."
On the year, Kluber has 205 strikeouts in 203 innings. He is the first pitcher in team history to surpass 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in five straight seasons.
"It's just being able to stay healthy and make starts and log innings," Kluber said. "Hopefully, that results in giving the team a chance to win. I'm not concerned with what specific statistics are. It's just being able to be reliable and take the ball when it's your turn."
Kluber is 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 23 games (22 starts) against Chicago. He has 173 strikeouts in 153 2/3 innings.
The White Sox (61-94) need two victories in their final seven games to avoid a 100-loss campaign. They have endured only three 100-loss seasons in franchise history (1932, 1948 and 1970).
Chicago manager Rick Renteria said he hoped that fans could stay patient during the team's rebuilding effort.
"We see it not only in the Cubs' (successful rebuild), we've seen it with the Astros, the Indians, a multitude of clubs that have gone through that process," Renteria said to the Chicago Tribune. "The Braves, it took the Braves four years. It took the Astros four or five years.
"It's hard for me to explain to the fans other than my own belief that what we have coming is going to be something that is going to be very fruitful in the near future."
White Sox right-hander Dylan Covey (5-13, 5.33 ERA) will make his 20th start of the season. The 27-year-old faced the Indians on Wednesday night, tossing six scoreless innings while striking out five.
Covey is 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA in seven career games (five starts) against the Indians.
Updated September 24, 2018