Kluber rolls as Indians hold off White Sox

Kluber rolls as Indians hold off White Sox

CHICAGO -- Corey Kluber threw 7 1/3 strong innings on Wednesday in the Indians' 4-3 victory against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. The 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner has struggled at times early this season, but he was near top form Wednesday as he struck out nine batters to help the Indians get their third win in four games against the White Sox.

"I thought he was outstanding," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "There's been a couple hiccups, but I promise you, the day he pitches, we're thrilled. He works too hard. He's too much of a pro."

Added White Sox manager Robin Ventura: "Yeah, he was good. We've seen him in the past have a lot of movement, take a little off. Curveball, all that stuff. But he's extremely tough on lefties. He gets it in there. I think righties with the cutter, and change, he was two-seaming it as well. He had a lot of stuff going today."

Kluber's return to form boosts rotation

Despite trailing 4-1 entering the eighth, the White Sox jumped back in the game as soon as Kluber left. Jimmy Rollins singled against Kluber to lead off the frame before Kluber struck out Todd Frazier. Bryan Shaw, who came on in relief, allowed a two-run homer to Melky Cabrera, his third of the year, before Shaw settled down to get out of the inning. Kluber finished having surrendered two runs (one earned) on seven hits and a walk.

Cabrera's two-run moonshot

One day after beating White Sox ace Chris Sale, the Indians got to Jose Quintana just enough to win. Quintana, who entered Wednesday leading the AL in ERA, left after giving up three runs on five hits and a walk over six innings. He also recorded eight strikeouts.

Indians stay hot in May

The win was the Indians' third straight and their eighth in 11 games. The White Sox lost for the 11th time in their past 15 games and moved to 1-6-1 in their past eight series. Chicago also fell one game behind Cleveland in the loss column, though the White Sox still have a half-game lead over the Indians in the AL Central.

"We knew these are the guys who are ahead of us right now," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "We knew these are important even though it's still early. You can say if we dropped them, it's still early, but you know what? We won them, so we're going to tell you that we enjoyed these."

"It is what it is. We're in a funk right now," White Sox catcher Dioner Navarro said. "Early in the season, we went into a funk and then we came off of it, and now we've got to keep grinding. It's a long season. There are going to be stretches where the offense is going to struggle and the pitching is going to struggle. We've just got to put it together and keep battling hard every day."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The early lead: With two runners on in the second, Lonnie Chisenhall sliced a line drive to right field. Adam Eaton dove for the ball but came up short. As the ball bounced past him, both runners scored and Chisenhall advanced to third for a triple. The Indians went ahead 2-0 and improved to 19-6 when scoring first.

"Fortunately, Eaton didn't get it, and we get two runs out of it," Francona said. "Against a guy like Quintana, that's big."

Chisenhall's two-run triple

"Lefty hook, left on left, you get the head out, but you get the top left of the ball, and if I extend my glove a foot, it's caught," Eaton said. "I've got to be aggressive on that play with two outs." More >

Manufacturing a run: It was Frazier's legs, and not his power stroke, which produced the White Sox first run. After a leadoff walk, Frazier swiped second base with two outs. Yan Gomes' throw landed in short center, and when center fielder Rajai Davis failed to pick up the baseball cleanly, Frazier came all the way home.

"I got a run on the board. Felt like a Little League play kinda, just keep on going," Frazier said. "A little play like that can spark you. Guys got excited, but when you're losing, there is always something to keep on fighting back. You have to find a way whether you take a pitch or you have to find a way to keep battling."

Frazier scores on two errors

Make it two: The Indians got another triple that came with some help in the eighth, when Yan Gomes hit a hard ground ball to Frazier at third. Frazier, apparently battling the sun, let the ball hop past him, and it reached the left-field wall before Cabrera tracked it down. The play was scored a triple and allowed Mike Napoli to score from second for what turned out to be the deciding run.

"You could tell everybody was thrilled for him," Francona said. "He's been wearing it. You can tell he's been frustrated. He'll be there. It's nice to see him get rewarded for something."

Gomes' two-out RBI triple

Abreu getting going: The day off on Sunday for Jose Abreu has seemed to pay dividends. Abreu had two doubles and a single in Tuesday night's loss and added three more singles on Wednesday.

"He's swinging it better. His hands are working freer," Ventura said. "He's seeing it better. He's hitting it harder. I think all those things. That rut he was in, he just didn't seem in sync. Right now, it looks like he has a better balance and his hands are working better."

QUOTABLE
"I've been asking the few hitters that have gotten to second base today and in Boston. They say his stuff, he might have found it again. He's been looking real sharp." -- Kipnis on Kluber

"I take full responsibility giving up those two runs, but I need to make the play there. At the same token, it's a tough play. I went with the best of my ability, and it wasn't good enough." -- Eaton

DISPUTED BALK
Quintana appeared to have Jose Ramirez picked off first in the third inning, a pickoff that would have allowed the White Sox left-hander to eventually escape the inning unscathed. But first-base umpire Joe West called a balk on Quintana, and Ramirez scored on Juan Uribe's sacrifice fly that would have been the third out.

"I did that a couple of times, tried to pick off a couple of guys with the same move, and Joe said balk," Quintana said. "When I came back, I looked at my feet, and they were close at a 45-degree angle, and I said, 'I don't think that's a balk.' But he called a balk."

"I thought his path was towards the base, so I couldn't see if there was any movement," Navarro said. "It's hard for me to tell. I know his path was towards the base."

Ramirez advances on balk

WHAT'S NEXT
Indians: After an off-day on Thursday, Trevor Bauer starts for the Indians to open a three-game series against the Orioles at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday in Cleveland. Bauer is 2-2 with a 4.13 ERA, 11 walks and 23 strikeouts in five starts this season.

White Sox: Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 4.57 ERA) takes the mound at 7:15 p.m. CT on Thursday in Kansas City to begin a four-game series against the defending World Series champs and a 10-game road trip for the South Siders. Gonzalez has an 0-7 record in 12 starts since his last win on July 25, 2015, with Baltimore.

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Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.