CLEVELAND — The offense goes on two-week vacations, and Cleveland’s defense sometimes springs leaks. The starting rotation has been inconsistent, and until recently the bullpen’s had issues.
Over the past two months, though, the Indians have been able to count on one thing: Corey Kluber has been almost flawless.
Kluber struck out a season-high 11 and notched his seventh straight win, leading the Indians to an 8-4 victory on Wednesday night over the Minnesota Twins, whose losing streak has reached 13 games — one shy of tying the club record.
Unbeaten since July 3, Kluber (15-8) allowed three runs and six hits in eight solid innings. The right-hander is 7-0 with a 1.94 ERA in his last 10 starts, a stretch in which the Indians have seized control of the AL Central.
“Yeah, he’s pretty good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “That’s a nice feeling knowing that every five days, and it’s not like we don’t have other guys, but he’s so consistent at a high level that it’s really nice.”
Carlos Santana and Roberto Perez homered off Pat Dean (1-5), and Jose Ramirez hit a two-run double during a five-run fifth as the AL Central-leading Indians swept the three-game series and extended the Twins’ sorry slide.
Minnesota is winless since Aug. 17, and the Twins’ skid — the lengthiest in the majors this season — is also the second-longest in team history. They also lost 13 in a row in 1961 and 1982, when they dropped 14 in a row.
“It’s been a long week,” manager Paul Molitor said. “We need to try to find a way to win a game at some point to just lighten the load. It’s getting heavy. Guys are getting on the edge a little bit. You can feel it. It’s building.”
Brian Dozier hit his 32nd homer and Max Kepler connected for his 16th for the Twins, who loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth off rookie Perci Garner, making his major league debut. Bryan Shaw came on and threw a wild pitch before striking out Dozier for his first save.
For seven-plus innings, Kluber had little trouble against the AL’s worst team. The 2014 Cy Young Award winner, who followed up an 18-win season by losing 16 last year, struck out four of the first six batters and carried a 7-1 lead into the eighth, when Dozier tagged him for a two-run homer.
Cleveland’s offense, almost non-existent for nearly two weeks, helped Kluber by collecting 12 hits. It was only the third time in 10 games the Indians scored more than one run.
In typical fashion, the stoic Kluber downplayed his performance, which took some pressure off a tired bullpen.
“Yeah, obviously in hindsight I gave them a break but that wasn’t my goal going into today to give them a break,” he said. “Every time I pitch I’m trying to go as deep into the game as I can. I think Tito (Francona) was joking around with me yesterday saying my pitch count would be around 140 so he took me out a little early.
“It was good to get out there and get some quick innings early and get ahead of them and pounded the zone and was able to go pretty deep.”
Santana gave Kluber and the Indians a 2-1 lead in the fourth with his 28th homer, a laser shot into the left-field stands. Santana’s 28 homers — only four have been right-handed — are the most in franchise history by a switch-hitter.
The Indians will skip Josh Tomlin’s next start while trying to figure out what to do next with the struggling right-hander.
Tomlin is 0-5 with an 11.48 ERA in his last six starts, and he lasted a career-low 1 2/3 innings on Tuesday. Francona has remained in Tomlin’s corner, but with the Indians eyeing October, they can’t afford any more bad performances from the 31-year-old.
“We’re going to put our heads together,” Francona said. “How to get him back the best way, we need to figure that out.”
Indians: C Yan Gomes, out since July 17 with a separated right shoulder, is expected to begin a rehab assignment in the next week. The club made a procedural move with him, putting him on the 60-day disabled list. He’s eligible to be activated on Sept. 16.
Twins: Ervin Santana, the subject of trade rumors in recent days, will open a four-game series at home against the Chicago White Sox.
Indians: Following an off day, the Indians will open a three-game series against the Miami Marlins with Carlos Carrasco facing Andrew Cashner.