CLEVELAND (AP) – Corey Kluber appears to be over whatever was making him look ordinary.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner pitched a three-hitter for his first shutout this season and new arrival Leonys Martin homered again for Cleveland, leading the Indians to a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.
Kluber (14-6) got better as the game went on, and his performance eased any concerns the Indians had about the star right-hander. Kluber had lost two of his three previous starts and received an injection in his right knee before the All-Star break. He walked one, hit a batter and struck out seven.
“It’s wonderful,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It seemed like he was in command the entire night, and early on we weren’t doing anything offensively, so it wasn’t like he had a cushion to pitch with.”
Kluber matched zeros for five innings against Felix Pena (1-3), who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Martin hit a leadoff homer. Martin has quickly endeared himself to his teammates and Cleveland fans by hitting two homers and batting .500 with three RBIs and three runs in just three games since being acquired in a trade with Detroit.
“I’m really happy, man,” Martin said. “I came here to help. And I want to do my best to help this team to get where we want. We’ve got a long way to go still.”
The AL Central-leading Indians only got four hits but notched their 60th win.
The Angels were again without All-Star outfielder Mike Trout, who missed his third straight game with a sore right wrist.
But even with Trout in the lineup, Los Angeles would have had a tough time against Kluber. The right-hander was never in trouble and he cooled off Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, who homered twice in Friday’s win.
Ohtani came in batting .643 with four homers and eight RBIs in three games against Cleveland, but went 0 for 4 and struck out twice against Kluber.
“It wasn’t a whole lot different than what we had been (doing), or at least I tried to do the last time I pitched against him,” said Kluber, who gave up Ohtani’s first homer on April 4. “Last time he hit the home run off me, I made a mistake up and out over the plate. I just didn’t make that mistake tonight.”
Pena didn’t get out of the first inning in his previous outing, and the right-hander started poorly, walking the first two batters. However, Pena settled in and didn’t give up his first hit until the sixth, when Martin drove a 3-1 pitch 415 feet to right-center.
Moments before Martin connected for his second homer in two days, the Indians attempted to jinx Pena by displaying – “Felix Pena is currently throwing a no-hitter” – on Progressive Field’s enormous scoreboard.
The strategy worked as Martin ended Pena’s flirtation with history. The Indians added a second run when Francisco Lindor followed with a double and scored on Michael Brantley’s single.
“Got the ball right in the middle, and thank God, I put a good swing on it,” Martin said.
Lindor took an infield hit away from Justin Upton with a sensational play in the sixth
Upton hit a pop between the mound and second base that the All-Star shortstop snagged barehanded on one hop before throwing in time to get the Angels left fielder.
Martin remembers Lindor making similar plays against him.
“I used to hate that guy,” he said, smiling. “I use to hate him. He’s really good. He’s one of the best in the game. He made that play look so easy.”
Trout expressed frustration that his wrist isn’t healed. He’s still having trouble swinging since injuring his wrist while sliding on Wednesday.
“It’s just a day-to-day thing,” he said. “I want to be out there. It’s frustrating. You don’t want to be sitting on the bench watching your team out there.”
Ohtani showed off his power to all fields in Friday’s game, homering to right and left against Mike Clevinger.
Although Ohtani doesn’t have a typical slugger’s swing, Francona says he’s got plenty of pop.
“And he can run,” Francona said. “He’s an interesting guy. He’s got a chance to be pretty special.”
Angels: LHP Tyler Skaggs was placed on the disabled list with a strained hip muscle. Manager Mike Scioscia said Skaggs, who was scheduled to pitch Sunday’s finale, felt tightness in his previous start on July 31.
Indians: C Yan Gomes will be out of the starting lineup for several games due to hamstring tendinitis. Gomes has been bothered with the condition for a while, and aggravated his leg while running out a double in the second inning on Friday.
Indians rookie Shane Bieber will make his first start against the Angels, who will call up rookie Deck McGuire from the minors. Bieber pitched into the seventh inning against Minnesota on July 30, but didn’t factor into the decision.