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Indians' Corey Kluber seeks 21st win in playoff tuneup vs. Royals

By
Jim Ingraham, The Sports Xchange
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber delivers a pitch to the St. Louis Cardinals in the second inning on June 26 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber delivers a pitch to the St. Louis Cardinals in the second inning on June 26 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and a candidate to finish high in the voting this year, will make his final regular-season start on Saturday night against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Kluber (20-7, 2.83) is a 20-game winner for the first time, the first Indians right-hander to win 20 games since Gaylord Perry went 21-13 in 1974. The only other Indians pitcher to win 20 games in the last 44 years is Cliff Lee, who was 22-3 in his Cy Young Award-winning season in 2008.

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Kluber will be the Indians' starting pitcher in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, which will be played Friday in Houston. In his last start, on Sept. 24 against the White Sox, he pitched seven scoreless innings and gave up four hits, with 11 strikeouts and one walk in picking up his 20th win of the season.

"Twenty wins is cool. It's a nice, round number, but as long as we win the game, that's obviously our main goal," Kluber said. "Winning 20 is something to be proud of, but the way I look at it, it means I gave us a chance to win a bunch of times. I think the number one thing it shows is that I stayed healthy and I was consistent."

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Indians manager Terry Francona said watching Kluber get his 20th win was one of the highlights of the Indians' season.

"I think me and the players were all nervous for him. Probably more than he was for himself," Francona said.

Kluber is 8-1 with a 2.74 ERA in his last 11 starts. His last start against Kansas City came Sept. 5, a 3-1 victory in which he pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run and two hits, with 10 strikeouts and one walk.

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Kluber leads the AL in innings pitched (210) and walks per nine innings (1.37). He's second in wins, second in strikeouts per walk (6.75) and third in WHIP (0.971).

In four starts against the Royals this year, Kluber is 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA. In 24 career starts against Kansas City he is 12-7 with a 3.02 ERA.

The Royals' Saturday night starter will be right-hander Jakob Junis (8-12, 4.42), who will be making his team-high 30th start of the year. Junis received a no-decision in his last start, which came in a 5-4 Royals loss to Detroit. Junis pitched six innings, giving up three runs and eight hits, with five strikeouts and one walk.

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Junis' last start against the Indians was a 5-1 win on Sept. 3 in which he pitched seven scoreless innings giving up two hits, with six strikeouts and no walks. In three starts against Cleveland this year he is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA. Junis has made five career appearances (four starts) against the Indians and is 1-2 with a 5.88 ERA.

The Indians, who routed the Royals 14-6 on Friday night for their 90th win of the season, are still just 13-13 in September. Kansas City is 14-12 in September. Cleveland leads the season series between the two teams, 11-6.

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