CLEVELAND -- Indians ace Corey Kluber was able to end his season on a high note, shutting out the Red Sox over eight innings in Saturday's 2-0 victory at Progressive Field.
Kluber (9-16, 3.49 ERA) had struggled in three starts since returning from a hamstring injury, adding to his already frustrating season. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner struck out nine, allowing just five baserunners on three hits and two walks.
"Everybody's going to look at his record and immediately go to, 'OK, it was an off year,' or however you want to put it," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But he's so good, and I would venture to guess that if he had similar ERA, strikeouts, you'll look up next year and the record will be flip-flopped."
"I've always maintained that when a pitcher of his caliber starts working, getting in a rhythm, and has that special day going, it's going to be a long day for the offense," Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo said of Kluber. "I think that was typically the case. He had a two-seam fastball that he was working on both sides of the plate, great deception, secondary stuff was there. I think he was feeling very good and wasn't throwing any pitch in the middle of the zone."
For Boston, Craig Breslow, typically a reliever, made just his second career start. The 35-year-old lefty filled in admirably, allowing just two earned runs -- each on solo homers -- in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out two and did not walk a batter.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Back at it: A night after Carlos Santana opened up the scoring with a bases-loaded double, he did so again with a solo home run in the second inning off Breslow. The blast went nearly halfway up the bleachers in left field, projected by Statcast™ to land 441 feet away and coming off the bat at 111 mph. Santana leads the Indians in home runs (19) and RBIs (85).
"He's swinging it, and he's playing with energy. That's good," Francona said. "On a night like tonight, I think it kind of shows the way these guys have been playing. It's cold and there's not much left in the season, but it's a heck of a lot more fun to go out and watch them play and be crisp and make plays and hustle. I get a lot of satisfaction watching that."
Breslow strong in second cameo: Though Breslow has no aspirations of turning into a starting pitcher, he's done a nice job of it the last two Saturdays. With the Red Sox again having a "bullpen day," Breslow set career highs in both innings and pitches (66). It followed his four-inning scoreless start against Baltimore last week at Fenway Park. More >
"I was kind of reluctant to label myself a starter after that first one," Breslow said. "Going from a start, preparing and then having another start, I certainly can appreciate the routine and the structure. It was a lot of fun. Whereas last time I thought it was fun and it was a new experience, this time I at least had different expectations. I feel like it's something I could do."
Lefty killer:Ryan Raburn nearly matched Santana's blast with a fourth-inning bomb of his own, sending a Breslow pitch 435 feet to the bleachers, giving him his eighth home run of the season. Entering Saturday, Raburn's .984 OPS against left-handers ranked seventh in all of baseball, one spot behind the Nationals' Bryce Harper.
"He's ready to hit lefties," Francona said. "And he always has been. He's understood his role and he stays ready and he does damage."
Holt hit: Red Sox utility man Brock Holt had to leave the game after getting struck on the left knee on an 82-mph curveball from Kluber. Holt was on the ground for a bit in apparent agony, but was able to limp off the field with a member of the training staff by his side. Allen Craig replaced him as a pinch-runner and stayed in the game as the designated hitter.
"He's doing OK. We'll re-evaluate him tomorrow, see where he's at," Lovullo said. "Just, left kneecap on a cold night, hit him in a good spot to knock him down. He's a tough kid. We'll see where he's at and play it day to day."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Mookie Betts went hitless, but he led off the game with a walk to stretch his on-base streak to 36 games, during which he's hitting .360 with 14 doubles, one triple and seven homers. It is the longest on-base streak by a Red Sox player since Dustin Pedroia reached in 37 straight games in 2011.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Right-hander Rick Porcello will close out the season in Sunday's 3:10 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field. Porcello has pitched well since coming off the disabled list, posting a 3.22 ERA and .251 opponents' batting average over his last seven starts.
Indians:Danny Salazar (13-10, 3.51 ERA) will toss the season finale for the Indians, making his 30th start of the year. Salazar made his only career start against Boston earlier this season, allowing one earned run over seven strong innings.
The game is available to stream free out of market on MLB.TV, presented by AT&T. Blackout restrictions apply.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and listen to his podcast. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.