Corey Kluber has won 18 games in a season three times, and in two of those also collected the American League’s Cy Young Award.
So what he might he earn for winning 19? Or 20?
Kluber picked up his career-high 19th victory on Tuesday night, striking out 11 over eight innings as the Indians topped the Chicago White Sox 5-3. He threw 107 pitches before giving way in the ninth to Andrew Miller, who picked up his second save. Kluber ran his record to 19-7, with an ERA of 2.93.
The Indians (84-66) have only the fifth best record in the AL, but they’ve already clinched the Central Division title. The next best team in that division, the Minnesota Twins, is 11 games under .500.
Kluber went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA when he won the Cy Young in 2014, and 18-4 a year ago with an AL-best 2.25 ERA to grab the award again. He was a mere third in the voting when he was 18-9 in 2016.
Kluber can be dominant. He picked up his 200th strikeout on Tuesday night, giving him 200 for five straight seasons. He’s the first Indians pitcher to do that since Sam McDowell (1965-70).
The Indians have solid pitching with Kluber, Carlos Carrasco (16-9), Shane Bieber (10-4) and Trevor Bauer (12-6, but on the 10-day disabled list), and as a team they’re sixth in the AL in ERA. They added what should be a potent bat in Josh Donaldson, a former AL MVP, and they won’t have to wear out any key players down the stretch.
The AL favorites remain the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros. But the Indians, World Series runners-up in 2016, shouldn’t be counted out. They’re experienced, battle-tested and mindful they 0-3 in the World Series since they last won it in 1948.
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