"That's not like him," Indians closer Cody Allen quipped. "Normally, we're just wearing sneakers down there on the day he pitches."
The Yankees made Kluber work all Saturday afternoon in the Bronx, but New York will have to consider that a moral victory. It was hardly enough to slow the right-hander down in this stellar season of his for the Indians, who claimed a 3-0 victory behind his latest showing at Yankee Stadium.
It marked the first win for the Indians since Monday, when Kluber last took the mound.
Kluber, who spun an 85-pitch shutout against Seattle on July 30, saw his pitch count climb to 109 after he retired his final batter. It marked the shortest outing for Kluber since he also logged six frames on July 11, and it ended a streak of four consecutive starts in which the right-hander had worked into at least into the eighth inning.
"That's just a veteran lineup," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They either fouled pitches off or got some deep counts, so he had some 20-pitch innings as opposed to maybe some quick ones. But every time they had runners in scoring position, [he shut them down]."
While the Yankees forced Kluber to toil through some extra pitches, he still managed to dodge minimal traffic and pile up the strikeouts. The righty ended the day with 10 strikeouts against one walk, marking the sixth time this year (a single-season club record) that he has finished with double-digit strikeouts and no more than one free pass.
Kluber also joined Indians greats Sam McDowell (four times), Bob Feller (twice), Herb Score (twice), Luis Tiant (once) and Dennis Eckersley (once) as the only Cleveland pitchers in the past century to have at least seven double-digit strikeout games in one season. Eckersley was the last to achieve the feat with eight such outings in 1976.
Kluber scattered four hits -- the first coming courtesy of a one-out double from Jacoby Ellsbury in the fourth -- and allowed no runs for the third time in his past four starts. The starter has yielded just one earned run across 31 1/3 innings in that span. Kluber has a 0.68 ERA in his last six starts (40 innings) and a 1.32 ERA over his past 10 outings (75 innings).
"He's nasty, man," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "He's got control, didn't walk guys. He's a handful. I think he's had a lot of success throughout the entire year, not just today. If he continues to pitch like this, he'll have an extremely long and successful career."
New York's biggest threat against Kluber came in the sixth inning, which Jeter led off by legging out an infield chopper for a single. Following that hit -- one that moved the Yankees' shortstop into sole possession of sixth place on baseball's all-time hits list with 3,431 -- Ellsbury delivered a single to shallow left.
Kluber then sliced his way through Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley and Stephen Drew with three straight strikeouts to end the inning. After Kluber fanned Drew swinging, Indians catcher Yan Gomes popped up from his crouch and emphatically pumped his fist as the Yankee Stadium crowd groaned.
With the win, Kluber improved to 13-6 with a 2.46 ERA on the season for the Indians, who owe him greatly for remaining on the edge of the American League playoff chase.
"He's a huge part of it," said Allen, who worked a clean ninth en route to his 15th save of the year. "Think about his last, probably, seven or eight starts -- he's been unbelievable. Every time he toes the rubber, that's a win. No matter if he's getting the decision or not, every time he toes the rubber, that's a win. And we need every one we can get right now."
Kluber has not needed much run support of late, and he received all he would require in the second inning, when shortstop Jose Ramirez lifted a pitch from New York starter Brandon McCarthy out to right field. The towering fly from Ramirez, who finished with three hits, just cleared the short porch, giving the rookie his first Major League home run and handing Kluber a 2-0 lead.
"I feel really happy," Ramirez said through a translator. "First home run in Yankee Stadium. Everyone dreams to play here."
McCarthy did what he could to keep pace with Kluber, giving New York 6 1/3 innings and eight strikeouts in an effort that might have netted a win on another afternoon. Following McCarthy's exit, Michael Brantley offered the Indians some insurance with a leadoff home run (his 17th homer of the season) off Chase Whitley in the eighth.
That was an ample cushion for relievers Scott Atchison, Bryan Shaw and Allen to use to their advantage
Kluber will try to save them so much work next time out.
"I was just taking a day off," Kluber said with a smirk.