CLEVELAND -- With a 14-game lead in the American League Central, it will not be a high-stress September for the postseason-bound Cleveland Indians.
But the Indians do have some priorities in the last month of the regular season. One of them involves their starting pitcher on Friday night when they host the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of a three-game series at Progressive Field.
That pitcher is Corey Kluber, whom the Indians would like to get on a roll going into the postseason. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has had an up and down second half of the season, which started at the All-Star break, during which he received an injection to deal with right knee inflammation.
Since getting that injection, Kluber has been better, but not to the level he consistently pitched to last year when he won his second Cy Young Award. In his last 13 starts, Kluber is 6-5 with a 4.05 ERA.
That includes his last start this past Saturday against the Kansas City Royals, the lowest scoring team in the American League.
Kluber lost that game 7-1, pitching 5 1/3 innings and allowing five runs and nine hits, with six strikeouts and two walks.
"He threw a couple fastballs that he didn't locate real well, and they made him pay," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They jumped on him pretty good when he made mistakes."
One of Kluber's nemesis this year has been the home run ball. With a month still left in the season, he has already given up 22 home runs, matching his career high. Left-handers have hit 13 of the 22 home runs Kluber has allowed, including one by lefty-swinging Lucas Duda in the Kansas City start.
"I left a couple fastballs in the middle of the plate that they hit," Kluber said of the start vs. the Royals. "Some pitches I felt like I executed them pretty well, but they put them in play and found some holes, so you tip your cap. It wasn't perfect by any means. It was one of those days that I felt could have gone better, but it is what it is."
Kluber's start Friday will be his first against Tampa Bay since Aug. 13, 2017, when he beat the Rays 11-3, pitching seven innings and allowing three runs and four hits, with nine strikeouts and two walks. In eight career starts against Tampa Bay, Kluber is 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA.
Kluber's mound opponent will be right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who will make his first career appearance against Cleveland. Glasnow is a combined 1-3 with a 4.18 ERA for Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. He was part of the July 31 trade between the Rays and Pirates in which pitcher Chris Archer was traded to Pittsburgh.
Glasnow has appeared in 39 games, five of them starts. He was 1-2 with a 4.34 ERA in 34 relief appearances with the Pirates, and he is 0-1 with a 3.80 ERA in five starts for Tampa Bay.
In his last start for the Rays, Glasnow received no decision in Tampa Bay's 4-3 win over Kansas City on Aug. 23. He pitched five innings, giving up three runs and five hits, with eight strikeouts and three walks.