CLEVELAND -- Much to the relief of Cleveland Indians officials and fans, Corey Kluber is back to being Corey Kluber, and he'll be on the mound Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field in the final game of a four-game series between the Indians and Minnesota Twins.
It will be the final game of Cleveland's seven-game homestand, and so far the Indians are 4-2 vs. the Angels and Twins.
Kluber's roller coaster season started well. In his first 14 starts he was 10-2 with a 1.99 ERA. However, in his next seven starts he was 2-4 with a 5.21 ERA, and it was eventually learned he had a sore right knee, for which he received an injection.
Since that injection Kluber has made two starts and been almost untouchable, going 2-0 with a 0.55 ERA. In those two starts Kluber has allowed one run and eight hits in 16 1/3 innings. Opposing batters have hit .143 against him, with a .186 on-base percentage and .196 slugging percentage.
Kluber's last start was a 96-pitch, three-hit complete-game shutout, with seven strikeouts and one walk in a 3-0 win over the Angels on Saturday.
Thursday will be Kluber's third start against Minnesota this year. In his first two he was 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA. In 21 career starts against Minnesota Kluber is 9-6 with a 3.36 ERA.
Overall this season Kluber is 14-6 with a 2.63 ERA. He leads the American League with 1.2 walks per nine innings. He's tied for the league lead in wins, third in innings pitched (154), and fifth in ERA.
If Kluber needs help in the ninth inning Thursday, it's a tossup over which reliever Indians manager Terry Francona will call for the save opportunity, Cody Allen or Brad Hand.
In seven appearances since being acquired in a trade with San Diego on July 19, Hand has pitched nine innings and has a 2.00 ERA, allowing seven hits and one walk while recording 10 strikeouts and three saves.
In his four appearances leading up to the trade for Hand, Allen, who leads the Indians with 24 saves, had some ugly numbers: a 22.09 ERA, allowing nine runs, eight hits, including three home runs, and two hit batters in just 3 2/3 innings.
Then in his next six appearances Allen was much better, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings on four hits.
"Cody is looking more like Cody," said Francona prior to Wednesday's game. "He's way better. Some of it is mechanical, but a lot of it was that he was starting to think about (his struggles). That's when we started putting him into (non-save situations), just to get him out there competing, and not worrying."
But Wednesday night Allen struggled again, when he gave up a game-tying home run to Miguel Sano leading off the ninth inning. Allen's struggles are one reason the Indians traded for Hand, who has 48 saves since the start of the 2017 season, and is a strong second option for Francona in save situations.
Kluber's mound opponent Thursday will be right-hander Jose Berrios (11-8, 3.51 ERA). In his last start, which came on Saturday, an 8-2 win over Kansas City, Berrios pitched seven innings, allowing two runs and five hits, with six strikeouts and three walks.
In two starts against Cleveland this year Berrios is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA. He has made six career starts against the Indians and is 3-2 with a 4.32 ERA.
Indians center fielder Leonys Martin missed Wednesday's game with what Francona called "intestinal turmoil." Martin is considered day-to-day.