Cleveland Corey Kluber stayed stone-faced, maintaining the same stoic look in the clubhouse that he had for nine innings on the mound.
Only when prodded by an Indians teammate did Kluber crack.
“Did you smile after the game?” pitcher Justin Masterson yelled to Kluber.
“I did,” he said. “Only when I saw you.”
Kluber had everyone in Cleveland’s clubhouse smiling after he struck out a career-high 11 and pitched a four-hitter for his first complete game, leading the Indians to a 5-1 victory over the Royals on Thursday.
Kluber (2-2) didn’t walk a batter, and his rare outing allowed Cleveland manager Terry Francona to give some needed rest to his bullpen.
“That was really fun to watch,” Francona said. “He had everything working. His fastball was going both ways, change-up, location. He worked ahead and he threw a ton of strikes. That was really impressive.”
Kluber is the first Cleveland pitcher to throw a complete game while recording 11 strikeouts, no walks or earned runs since Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981.
“It was nice,” said Kluber, who couldn’t remember the last time he pitched nine innings. “I really wasn’t trying to make a bigger deal out of it than going out there and getting three more outs. Maybe that’s why it worked out.”
David Murphy and Asdrubal Cabrera drove in two runs apiece in the Indians’ five-run fifth off Bruce Chen (1-2), who controlled Cleveland’s lineup for four innings.
The Indians have won four of five to get back to .500.
The Royals scored an unearned run off Kluber in the seventh when Omar Infante singled and scored when Indians first baseman Nick Swisher made a half-hearted attempt at Mike Moustakas’ grounder, which got by him for an error and rolled all the way into the right-field corner.
Other than that, Kansas City’s hitters were unable to do much against Kluber, whose previous long outing was 82⁄3 innings last July against the White Sox. He’s 3-0 in four career starts against the Royals.
“He put it to us,” said Alex Gordon, who went 0-for-4 and struck out to the end the game. “Give him credit.”