Corey Kluber versus the White Sox has been a historically one-sided affair. Wednesday's series finale in Cleveland seemed destined to go a the way so many had before.
Kluber, the Indians ace who has two Cy Young Awards to his name, entered with a career's worth of dominant performances against the South Siders: a 13-4 record and a 2.80 ERA in 24 appearances. Last season, he was pretty much untouchable when pitching against the White Sox, with four wins and a 0.96 ERA in four starts.
So it was pretty darn surprising when the White Sox jumped all over him Wednesday in the Buckeye State.
Kluber struggled mightily, not making it out of the fourth inning in the White Sox 8-3 win in the final game of their season-opening road trip. The South Siders torched Kluber for six runs (four of which were earned) on eight hits and three walks in 3.1 innings.
A couple enlightening facts courtesy of our Chris Kamka:
— Wednesday was Kluber's shortest career start against the White Sox; he'd never previously been pulled before completing five innings.
— Wednesday was Kluber's 25th appearance against the White Sox but just the third in which he allowed six runs.
This early in the season, even baseball's most dominant pitchers can experience bad days at the yard. One rough outing in early April doesn't mean Kluber's reign is over, that the Indians don't boast baseball's best rotation nor that the Tribe is no longer the favorite in a weak AL Central.
But it was another solid performance from the top half of the White Sox lineup, which in a somewhat transformed state has shown what it's capable of in the early going of this 2019 campaign.
Leury Garcia, despite a base-running gaffe that prevented the White Sox from doing more first-inning damage against Kluber, had a four-hit afternoon, scoring three runs.
Yoan Moncada reached base four times Wednesday, blasting a pair of balls deep into the Cleveland sky. The first went for a double off the high wall in center field. The second was launched into the right-field seats for his second home run of the season. He crossed home plate thrice and now boasts a jaw-dropping .450/.522/.900. He's walked as many times as he's struck out, three apiece.
Jose Abreu had two hits and drove in three runs, highlighted by the two-run double that chased Kluber in the fourth inning. He's got a .300/.364/.650 slash line through five games.
Yonder Alonso had a hit, a run, an RBI and walked for the seventh time this season. He walked at least once in each of the first five games of the campaign, the first White Sox hitter to do that since 1996 (another Kamka gem).
Eloy Jimenez still boasts just a .200 batting average on the season, but he had his second career multi-hit game Wednesday and still has high expectations for his rookie season.
Add the eventual return of veteran Jon Jay to the mix — Jay's expected to bat leadoff fairly often when he comes off the injured list — and you get a pretty pleasing picture of what this lineup, at least the top half of it, could do throughout the remainder of the 2019 campaign. Alonso was brought in to increase the lineup's on-base skills, and he's got a .455 on-base percentage through the season's first five games. Moncada went to Arizona this offseason to fix some of the things that led to a disappointing 2018 season (one lowlighted by 217 strikeouts), and he's been nothing short of terrific in a week of action, with that .450/.522/.900 slash line. Abreu had an uncharacteristic 2018 season and looks well on his way to bouncing back.
Here's the money stat from Kamka: Through the season's first five games, the top four spots in the White Sox lineup (which has almost exclusively been Garcia, Moncada, Abreu and Alonso, with Jimenez hitting fifth) have a .333/.422/.628 line with six home runs, 20 RBIs and 21 runs scored.
This isn't to suggest that the White Sox offense has been a runaway success through the season's first five contests. It took until Wednesday for them to score their first run in the first three innings of a game. In the first of this two-game set in Cleveland, the White Sox were held scoreless through the first seven innings and finished that 5-3 loss with just three hits. Daniel Palka is still without a hit this season. Yolmer Sanchez has just one.
But the potential is showing, especially at the top and in the middle. A Garcia/Jay-Moncada-Abreu-Alonso-Jimenez first five looks a lot different — and should spark some much higher hopes — than 2018. Even against a pitcher as dominant as Kluber.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.