TORONTO — In spring training, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona often spoke of how fun it would be to watch right-hander Corey Kluber grow.
This must have been what Francona was talking about. But even then, Francona might not have realized he had a budding strikeout machine in his midst.
Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, Kluber continued the efficiency he’d shown in three of his previous four starts. He took a no-hit bid into the fifth inning, allowed four hits and struck out nine as the Indians beat the Toronto Blue Jays 15-4 to even the three-game series.
Kluber got more than enough run support as the Indians banged out a season-high 22 hits.
In his last five starts, Kluber has struck out 47 in 35⅓ innings and compiled a 1.78 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched), with 28 hits and seven walks. Kluber (4-3, 3.38) has a 2.08 ERA in May, giving up 16 hits but only five runs. Entering the day’s play, his 57 strikeouts ranked sixth in the American League and his 2.09 walks per nine innings led Tribe starters. He walked one Wednesday.
Against the Jays, Kluber retired 13 consecutive batters before Adam Lind doubled to left field with one out in the fifth. Kluber sat through a long inning in the top half, when the Indians sent seven men to the plate and scored two runs, and the wait might have affected him.
After striking out Juan Francisco, Brett Lawrie plated Lind with a double to center field.
After walking Josh Thole, Kluber struck out Kevin Pillar to get out of the jam.
The Jays struck for another run in the sixth, aided by the Indians’ struggling defense. One pitch after second baseman Jose Ramirez and first baseman Nick Swisher apparently miscommunicated on a foul pop to right, Jose Bautista drilled an RBI double to center to cut the gap to 4-2. Edwin Encarnacion followed by fouling out to the catcher, then Lind sent a ball deep to the warning track. Mike Aviles leaped and made the catch against the wall.
Kluber bounced back in the seventh, striking out two more in a 1-2-3 inning.
Kluber’s strikeout total equaled his third-best of the season. He struck out 13 Chicago White Sox on May 4 and 11 Kansas City Royals on April 24.
Offensively, Lonnie Chisenhall recorded the second four-hit game of his career, the other coming this season against Detroit. David Murphy went 5-for-6 with five RBI and Asdrubal Cabrera contributed three hits, an RBI and two runs scored. It marked the third five-hit game, third five-RBI game and third three-double game of Murphy’s career.
Catcher Carlos Santana also showed signs of life. Batting 4-for-35 to drop his average to .152 coming in, Santana walked his first two times up, then blasted a two-run homer to right field in the fifth to put the Indians ahead 4-0. Santana plated Michael Brantley, who led off with a double to the wall in right.
It was the fifth home run of the season for Santana. His last came May 2 in Cleveland against the Chicago White Sox. Yan Gomes got in on the home run action with a three-run shot to right field in the ninth. It was Gomes’ sixth of the season and capped a 12-pitch at-bat.
In the bottom of the fifth, Nyjer Morgan took over in left field for Brantley, lifted because of mid-back tightness. In the sixth, Aviles was switched from second base to left, with Jose Ramirez entering at second as Morgan departed with a mild right knee sprain.
Jays right-hander Dustin McGowan (2-2, 5.08) gave up four runs on nine hits in four innings, walking two and striking out three. He had not started against the Indians since May 10, 2008.