Corey Kluber has piled up plenty of accolades and gaudy statistics in his career, but one milestone he had yet to reach was 20 wins. He can now add that one to the list.
Kluber posted victory No. 20 of the season on Monday after shutting out the White Sox over seven brilliant innings. He limited the Pale Hose to just four singles and one walk while tallying 11 strikeouts. Kluber became the Indians’ first 20-game winner since Cliff Lee in 2008 and first right-hander to win 20 for the Tribe since Gaylord Perry all the way back in 1974.
The double-digit strikeout game was Kluber’s second straight and seventh overall this season. He has now fanned 216 batters, a total good enough to rank fifth in the American League. He lowered his ERA to 2.83, which ranks fourth in the Junior Circuit.
Blake Snell – who is baseball’s other 20-game winner – has emerged as the likely favorite to capture the AL Cy Young award, but Kluber is right on his heels as he looks for his second straight Cy Young award and third overall. “Klubot” will get one final tune-up this weekend in Kansas City.
Johnny on the Spot
The Rockies have been waiting for Jon Gray to come up big in a big moment. He did so Monday in a game he wasn’t even supposed to start.
After Tyler Anderson had to be scratched due to a sore left shoulder, Gray stepped in and delivered seven terrific frames against the Phillies, holding them to one run on just four hits and three walks. He fanned seven batters on the night in the Rockies’ 10-1 victory.
Gray was making his first start in a week, as the Rockies pushed back his turn following three straight poor outings during which he allowed 12 runs over 10 innings. Monday’s outing was just his second quality start in his last six tries and his seven strikeouts represented his highest total in over a month.
Gray’s inconsistency has been maddening, and it even reached a point earlier this season that he was optioned to the minors. He obviously has the potential to be dominating on any given night, and needless to say it would be quite a lift to the Rockies if their Opening Day starter hit his stride now as they attempt to secure a playoff berth.
Gray’s performance wasn’t the only lift the Rockies received Monday, as they also got Trevor Story back in the lineup. Story wound up missing a week of action with a right elbow injury that was initially feared to be more serious, and he returned with a pair of doubles and a run scored versus the Phils. With their win and the Cardinals’ loss to the Brewers, Colorado now sits just half of a game out of the second NL Wild Card spot.
Houston, We Have Injuries
The Astros have already clinched a playoff berth and are on the cusp of 100 victories, but they have a few key players that are limping to the finish line.
The most concerning injury the defending champs have is probably the one Carlos Correa is dealing with. Correa initially injured his lower back in late June and missed seven weeks of action with the ailment before returning in mid-August. He’s never looked like himself since he came back, though, posting an ugly .174/.257/.223 batting line over 34 games, and over the weekend the Astros revealed that his back is still an issue.
Correa is expected to miss a sixth straight start on Tuesday, but he is feeling better and the hope is that he could be back in there as soon as Wednesday. Of course, whether Correa is 100 percent and his old productive self when he does return certainly looks like a question mark.
Houston did get a couple key guys back from injury Monday in George Springer and Lance McCullers. Springer missed Sunday’s game with leg and thumb maladies but returned to the top of the Astros’ lineup against the Blue Jays. Injuries have been piling up with Springer, as he’s also battled a shoulder issue. He’s been productive since coming back last month, though. McCullers was activated after a seven-week absence with right elbow discomfort. He’s slated for bullpen duty down the stretch – perhaps the multi-inning variety – of the regular season and the playoffs.
Yet another injury the Astros are dealing with is Charlie Morton’s right shoulder discomfort. The veteran starter landed on the DL late last month with the malady but had to exit his third start back on Sunday when it popped up again. Manager A.J. Hinch said after the game that he expects Morton to make a start later this week. He may prove to be correct, but the injury is definitely a concern moving forward, especially for a player with a checkered injury history like Morton.
American League Quick Hits: Didi Gregorius reported improvement with his ailing right wrist Monday and said he thinks he'll play before the end of the regular season … Mookie Betts went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer and a stolen base in the Red Sox' win over the Orioles on Monday … Aaron Hicks was lifted from Monday's game versus the Rays with a tight left hamstring and will undergo an MRI … Nathan Eovaldi struck out a season-high 10 batters over five innings of one-run ball in the Red Sox’ win over the Orioles on Monday … Lourdes Gurriel departed Monday's game versus the Astros with left hamstring tightness … Andrew McCutchen went 2-for-5 with a solo homer, a double and a pair of runs scored in the Yankees’ win over the Rays on Monday … An MRI on Andrelton Simmons' right knee came back negative and he hopes to return to the lineup Tuesday … Aaron Sanchez won't pitch again this season and could have offseason surgery to repair a lingering problem in his right index finger …
National League Quick Hits: Brian Mitchell whiffed seven across 8 2/3 shutout innings in Monday’s victory over the Giants … Ketel Marte went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI Monday in a loss to the Dodgers … David Freese went 3-for-4 with a homer and pair of RBI Monday in Arizona … Francisco Cervelli went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer to propel the Pirates to a win over the Cubs on Monday … Kris Bryant (shoulder) was back in action Monday, singling and drawing a walk … Starling Marte (calf) didn’t play Monday after leaving Sunday’s game … Adam Eaton (knee) reached base three times and scored a pair of runs in his return to the lineup Monday … Anthony Rendon finished 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBI in the Nationals' victory over the Marlins … Jameson Taillon fanned five over seven frames of one-run ball in Monday’s win over the Cubs … Starlin Castro left the Marlins on Monday to travel back to Florida to be with his wife after she went into labor … Pedro Strop (hamstring) played catch and went through agility drills Monday … Kolten Wong (hamstrings) remained out of the Cardinals' lineup Monday but hopes to return Tuesday … The Giants announced Monday that they have relieved general manager Bobby Evans of his duties … Aaron Altherr was lifted from Monday's game against the Rockies with a right big toe sprain, bruised right knee and possible concussion after colliding with the outfield wall …