CLEVELAND - Corey Kluber struck out 18 and allowed his only hit in the seventh inning, getting his first victory this season in style and leading the Cleveland Indians to a 2-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner, Kluber (1-5) didn’t yield a hit until Jhonny Peralta grounded a clean single to center with two outs in the seventh. A small crowd of 12,313 on a crisp night at Progressive Field gave Kluber a warm ovation, and he finished the inning by striking out Jason Heyward.
Kluber’s 18 strikeouts tied the club record for a nine-inning game held by Hall of Famer Bob Feller (1938.) It’s also the most strikeouts by an AL pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1998.
Kluber, who didn’t walk a batter, had a chance to break the major league mark of 20 strikeouts shared by Clemens and Kerry Wood, but he was pulled before the ninth after 113 pitches for closer Cody Allen, who got his fifth save.
The Indians haven’t had a no-hitter since Len Barker’s perfect game on May 15, 1981, and Kluber hasn’t had much to celebrate so far in 2015.
Kluber came in 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA, but finally got his first win in his eighth start.
Relying heavily on a fastball in the mid-90s, the righthander, who recently shaved off his beard, struck out the side in three innings and set down 18 straight batters after hitting Matt Holliday with a pitch in the first.
Brandon Moss and David Murphy had RBI singles in the first off Lackey, who allowed two runs in 5⅓ innings.
Kluber was locked in from the outset. He struck out two in the first and one in the second before setting the side down in order in the third and fourth. Before Peralta’s single, the Cardinals didn’t even put good wood on the ball against Kluber, who went 18-9 last season with a 2.44 ERA.