The Chicago White Sox were already in major trouble before Corey Kluber threw one pitch.
Once he had a big lead, surrender was their only option.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner pitched six shutout innings and reached eight victories before any AL pitcher as the Cleveland Indians rolled to their fifth straight win, 9-1 Wednesday over the sagging White Sox to complete a three-game series sweep.
Spotted a nine-run cushion after four innings, Kluber (8-2) had little trouble with baseball’s worst team.
Kluber allowed three hits and struck out 10 while improving to 4-0 with a 0.33 ERA in four starts against Central Division teams this season.
“You know he has pitched so many games where you look up and it’s nothing-nothing in the fifth,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We’ve all seen it. So to give him a cushion, any pitcher, but he certainly knows what to do with it.”
Melky Cabrera drove in three runs off Reynaldo Lopez (1-4) and Michael Brantley extended his MLB-high hitting streak to 19 games for Cleveland, which used the series to gain some confidence and momentum. The Indians scored 25 runs against the White Sox and 43 during their win streak.
Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion connected for back-to-back homers in the fourth off Chris Volstad as the Indians opened a 9-0 lead.
The White Sox committed two more errors, dropped their fourth in a row and fell to 16-37. Chicago had five errors in the three-game series.
Yolmer Sanchez homered leading off the ninth as the White Sox avoided a shutout.
Kluber is tough to deal with under normal circumstances, but with a big lead and pitching at home, he’s nearly unbeatable. The right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.26 ERA at Progressive Field, and he didn’t walk a batter for the fourth straight start — a career-best span of 28 1/3 innings.
“Kluber was Kluber,” said White Sox manager Rick Renteria.
Chicago’s Yoan Mocada led off the first with a single off Kluber, who then struck out eight of the next 12 and spent the rest of the day fine-tuning his already fine-tuned collection of pitches.
By the time Kluber took the mound in the third, the Indians were up 7-0, but he had to focus as things were much tighter.
“You kind of train yourself or teach yourself to take each hitter, each pitch, whatever you want to call it, as if the game was tied,” he said. “I think that through experience I’m sure every pitcher would tell you, as soon as you let your guard down a little bit, things usually bite you in the rear.”
Cabrera’s two-run double highlighted a five-run third for the Indians. They had Lopez in trouble in the first inning, but let the right-hander escape by giving up only two runs.
Brantley singled in the first when the Indians took a 2-0 lead against Lopez, whose wild pitch brought in Greg Allen with Cleveland’s first run before Cabrera delivered a one-out sacrifice fly.
Since moving into the No. 2 spot in Cleveland’s order, Brantley is batting .368 (29 of 79) with six homers, 18 RBIs and 20 runs scored.
The Indians improved to 7-3 in Cabrera’s 10 starts since he was recalled from Triple-A Columbus. He signed a minor league contract with the club in April.
“He just knows how to hit,” Francona said. “He really did work hard. When we were talking to him, he says, ‘I’m in good shape,’ and he is because it’s hard to step in when you miss spring training and he’s played every game.”
The White Sox held a 25-minute meeting after they were swept for the eighth time this season. They also dropped to 8-19 on the road and 7-14 inside the division.
All-Star reliever Andrew Miller has been cleared to begin a throwing program after he had his right knee evaluated by Dr. David Altchek in New York.
Altchek confirmed Miller has inflammation. The Indians said he’ll begin “a gradual progression back to mound activity.” There is no timetable for his return.
Miller has been on the disabled list three times in the past year with a right knee issue. The left-hander has not been effective since returning from a hamstring injury on May 11.
White Sox: LHP Hector Santiago starts against Milwaukee in the opener of a three-game series Friday. He picked up his first win of the season on May 26, allowing one run in five innings against Detroit.
Indians: Rookie Shane Bieber will make his major league debut — on his 23rd birthday — in the opener of a four-game series at Minnesota. A fourth-round pick in 2016, Bieber has quickly risen through Cleveland’s system. He pitched a rain-shortened, seven-inning no-hitter for Triple-A Columbus last week. He’s is the first pitcher in Cleveland history to debut on his birthday.
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