Two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber will go into his start Monday night in Kansas City in an unfamiliar position: A slump.
In his first 14 starts this year, Kluber was 10-2 with a 1.99 ERA. But in his last three starts, Kluber is 1-2 with a 6.59 ERA.
Nevertheless, the slumping Kluber will be on the mound Monday night for the Cleveland Indians, who, not coincidentally, are slumping as a team.
Although they walloped Oakland 15-3 on Sunday, the Indians have lost four of the first six games on their nine-game trip, which will conclude with three games in Kansas City.
Kluber, who is 10-6 with a 2.82 ERA in 21 career starts against the Royals, will try to get back on track against one of his favorite opponents.
Kluber’s three-start slump is actually two really bad ones sandwiched around a really good one. It started June 15 with a 10-3 loss to Minnesota in which Kluber gave up four runs in five innings.
However, Kluber’s next start, on June 20, was a 12-0 win over the Chicago White Sox in which he pitched seven scoreless innings and gave up one hit.
But on June 26 in St. Louis, Kluber had his worst start of the year, his worst in several years. In an 11-4 loss to the Cardinals, Kluber was removed from the game after giving up six runs in 1 2/3 innings.
“He’s human. Guys don’t go 35 starts (during the season) without a bump in the road,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Said Kluber: “No excuses. I just didn’t get the job done. I had some things going on delivery-wise and didn’t execute my pitches consistently.”
Although the Indians have a comfortable nine-game lead in the American League Central, they have had trouble winning on the road.
Cleveland is 27-13 at home but just 18-24 on the road, the only division leader in the majors with a losing record on the road. The Indians are hoping Kluber can help shake his slump and get a road win Monday.
Kluber is 11-4 with a 2.54 ERA overall this season. One of those wins came against the Royals on May 13, a 6-2 Cleveland victory in which Kluber pitched seven innings without allowing an earned run.
The Indians bolstered their bullpen Sunday by selecting left-hander Marc Rzepczynski from Triple-A Columbus and optioning starter Adam Plutko to Columbus.
Kluber’s mound opponent Monday night, Royals right-hander Jakob Junis (5-9, 4.67), is also mired in a slump.
Junis hasn’t won a game since May 18. In seven starts since then, he is 0-6 with a 6.30 ERA. His last start came June 26, a 5-1 loss to Milwaukee. In that game, Junis pitched five innings, giving up four runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.
Junis’ last start against Cleveland came May 13, when he pitched 5 2/3 innings in a 6-2 loss to the Indians, allowing four runs and six hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. In three career appearances against Cleveland, Junis is 0-1 with a 5.93 ERA.
The Royals, who have lost three in a row, were glad to see the calendar change to July. They went 5-21 in June, the worst record in June in the team’s 50-year history.