Cleveland scored two in the seventh inning to send the White Sox (63-78) to a third straight loss on their five-game road trip. Those two runs came off of reliever Zach Putnam (4-3), who replaced Jose Quintana to start the seventh.
That small but significant outburst made a winner of Corey Kluber (14-9), who hurled his third complete game of the season. The Cleveland right-hander doesn't quite have the name recognition of a Max Scherzer or Chris Sale or James Shields, for that matter, but his impressive raw numbers rank him as one of the best in baseball this season, let alone within the American League Central.
"Kluber is up there with anybody," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of the right-hander, who struck out eight and didn't issue a walk over 104 pitches. "You start looking at his body of work and I don't know if the name factor, but you start looking at what he does and how he does it, and he's as good as anybody. He's as good as anybody in the league, not just our division. You know you are in for a tough night when you are facing him.
"He goes deep in the game. He works quick. He doesn't seem to get rattled."
Saturday's effort raised Kluber's strikeout total to 223. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 13 of his last 16 starts and in 20 of his 31 overall. He has held opponents to four or fewer earned runs in each of his last 29 starts, which is the longest such streak in the Majors.
Without those two runs in the seventh, though, Kluber would have finished with a no-decision. It's a term that Quintana truly comprehends.
Quintana is being limited by the White Sox to approximately 100 pitches each start during the month of September, much like the team is doing with Sale. He reached those 100 in six innings against the Indians (73-67), allowing one run on seven hits, striking out seven and walking just one.
His lone real mistake came on the first pitch of the fourth, when Carlos Santana connected for his 25th home run. Quintana also managed to pitch out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fifth by retiring Santana on a popout and by striking out Yan Gomes.
If Kluber lacks name recognition, then Quintana's run of quality starts would fall in the completely overlooked category. And with 39 no-decisions since 2012, Quintana certainly deserves better.
"I would definitely take that matchup," said White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers of the Quintana/Kluber battle Saturday, after praising Kluber's amazing work. "I feel like Quintana is definitely capable of having that type of season that Kluber is having. There's no doubt about that. He did a great job today of pounding the zone early. His fastball command was pretty good with the exception of the one pitch to Santana."
"He had a nice night," said Ventura of Quintana. "Besides the home run, he had one inning where he got into a tight spot and worked his way out of it. He was throwing strikes early, too."
Michael Bourn reached base with a one-out walk against Putnam to start the deciding seventh, and Jose Ramirez followed with a long drive to right field. Avisail Garcia raced back to the wall but mistimed his leap, and the ball hit beyond his glove for a run-scoring triple. With the infield in, Michael Brantley then grounded a single past first baseman Andy Wilkins and second baseman Carlos Sanchez, who couldn't come up with the short hop.
"When you get a runner on that can run, that helps," said Cleveland manager Terry Francona of scoring against Putnam. "And then he fell behind the count a little bit, so he had to pay attention to Bourny and Jose got a pitch he could handle."
This next start for Quintana, most likely coming Friday at home against the Twins, will be his 30th of the season. Quintana also has his sights set on 200 innings for a second straight season, sitting at a team-high 178 2/3 after Saturday.
"Yes, that's really important for me. I want more than 200 innings," Quintana said. "I try to get more every time and win games. One day that will change for me and I'll get more wins."