"Everyone is going to look at his record and say he had an off year, but I'll take five of him in our rotation and be very happy," Francona said after Kluber pitched eight scoreless innings as the Indians beat the Boston Red Sox 2-0 on Saturday night at Progressive Field.
Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner who was plagued by a lack of run support this season, struck out nine and walked two. After going 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA last year, Kluber finished this season with a record of 9-16 and a 3.49 ERA. The loss total is deceiving because the Indians scored two or fewer runs in 11 of his 16 losses.
"Obviously, my won-loss record is not what I would like it to be, but aside from that I think most of my other numbers are similar to what they were last year," Kluber said. "I don't think I pitched drastically different from the way I pitched last year," Kluber said.
Francona said, "His peripheral numbers are really good. There were times early in the season when we didn't score for him and I think he started to pitch to that. But he's one of the best in the league."
Boston acting manager Torey Lovullo doesn't disagree with that.
"I've always maintained that when a pitcher of Kluber's caliber gets into a rhythm, it's going to be a long day for the offense, and that was the case tonight," Lovullo said.
Right-hander Cody Allen pitched the ninth inning to pick up his 33rd save. Left-hander Craig Breslow (0-4) took the loss.
Kluber allowed three hits, all singles -- first baseman Travis Shaw with one out in the fourth inning and catcher Sandy Leon with one out in the fifth and leading off the eighth.
Boston only got one runner as far as second base. That came in the first inning when right fielder Mookie Betts walked and stole second. But Kluber retired the next three batters to end that inning.
"His command was good. Everything was crisp. It was fun to watch, and a good way for him to end the season," Francona said.
Kluber struck out the side in the second and third innings. He finished the season with 245 strikeouts, and has 514 strikeouts in the last two years.
Kluber is the first AL pitcher to have 500 strikeouts over two consecutive seasons since Minnesota's Johan Santana in 2004-05. He's the first Indians pitcher to top 500 strikeouts in consecutive years since Sam McDowell in 1969-70.
Kluber struck out seven of the first 11 batters he faced, holding Boston hitless and scoreless through three innings until Shaw's one-out single in the fourth.
"He was throwing two-seamers to both sides of the plate," Lovullo said. "You could tell he was feeling really good, and he didn't leave many pitches in the middle of the plate."
The left-handed Breslow, a reliever by trade, was making his second career start for Boston after 522 consecutive relief appearances.
Breslow, who appeared in seven games for the Indians in 2008, gave up a solo home run to Santana leading off the second inning. It was Santana's 19th home run of the season.
In the fourth, Breslow gave up another leadoff home run, this one to Raburn, his eighth, giving Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
In 5 1/3 innings Breslow gave up two runs and five hits, with two strikeouts and no walks.
"I thought he was great, especially for a guy coming out of the pen," Lovullo said. "He gave up two homers, and that was it. He did exactly what we wanted him to do."
NOTES: Red Sox OF Mookie Betts has 10 assists as a center fielder. Last year, Jackie Bradley Jr. had 11 assists as a center fielder. It's the first time the Red Sox have had center fielders with double figures in assists in consecutive years since 1952 (Dom DiMaggio), 1953 (Tom Umphlett) and 1954 (Jackie Jensen). ... The Red Sox had rookie starting pitchers in 44 games this year. That's the most games started by rookie pitchers for the Red Sox since 1984. ... Indians SS Francisco Lindor is hitting .316 after going 1-for-4 on Saturday. That's the highest average by an Indians rookie with at least 300 plate appearances since Jeff Heath batted .343 in 1938.