Last year's American League Cy Young Award winner carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before finally flinching against St. Louis.
"He started to find it and feel it," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He was throwing with conviction and confidence and attacking with all his pitches. And when you have the talent he does, that's what can come of it. It was special."
Former Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta ended Kluber's no-hit bid with a clean single to center field with two outs in the seventh, ending a run of 18 straight batters retired by the righty. That did not deter Kluber from making history during his eight-inning performance on this night in Cleveland.
Kluber's 18 strikeouts tied Hall-of-Famer Bob Feller for the most in a nine-inning game in franchise history. Feller achieved the feat on Oct. 2, 1938, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Tigers. The 18 strikeouts are the most in the Majors since Ben Sheets fanned the same total on May 16, 2004, with the Brewers. Kluber also tied soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson for the most strikeouts in an eight-inning outing since at least 1914.
"I think we got a taste of why he won the Cy Young last year," Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter said. "His numbers this season don't reflect how good of a pitcher he is. He was as good, if not better, than anybody I've ever faced in the big leagues."
Prior to the outing, Kluber (1-5) had tied a dubious record for the longest winless drought (seven starts) to begin a season by a reigning Cy Young winner. That led to questions about what had been ailing Kluber early on this year.
Against St. Louis, which boasts the best record (23-10) in the National League, Kluber showed he is back on track.
"Any time that you throw your name in there with Bob Feller," Kluber said, "that's obviously very humbling and a great accomplishment. More important is obviously getting the win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Holliday hurting:Matt Holliday was forced to leave the game in the middle of the second inning after being struck by a 94-mph Kluber sinker in the top of the first. The pitch caught Holliday directly on the left elbow, and he collapsed in pain. He remained in the game to run the bases and played the field in the bottom half of the inning, but was eventually replaced by Pete Kozma in left field.
"He's sore," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It got him in a bad spot. He had trouble getting the soreness out to where he could finish the swing." More >
No more no-no: A Peralta single up the middle in the top of the seventh inning broke up a no-hitter that Kluber was seven outs away from achieving. The only baserunner in the game, prior to Peralta, was Holliday on the first-inning hit by pitch. Kluber had retired 18 consecutive batters since the Holliday HBP, had struck out 12 of the previous 14 batters faced, and at one point struck out six in a row.
"I don't think the situation of the game really allows you to [be disappointed]," Kluber said. "It's 2-0, so at that point, when somebody gets on, the tying run is at the plate. So, I don't think I really had time to sit there and think about, 'What if?' You just have to move on and get the next guy." More >
Striking first: In the opening frame, Indians leadoff man Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana got things started for the Tribe with consecutive walks against Cardinals starter John Lackey, who went 5 1/3 innings in the loss. With one out, Brandon Moss and David Murphy delivered back-to-back run-scoring singles to give the Indians a 2-0 advantage. Kluber has worked with low run support all season, but that was all he needed on his overpowering night.
"That was nice," Kluber said. "You can ask any pitcher. When you get a lead early, it gives you that extra little bit of confidence and you can try to go out there and put up a zero right afterwards, and then kind of let the offense try to keep building." More >
Gone streaking: During one particularly dominant stretch between the third and fourth innings, Kluber struck out six consecutive batters. He struck out 10 of 11 hitters from the third through the sixth inning. His 18 punchouts overall are the most in the American League since Roger Clemens fanned 18 for the Blue Jays on Aug. 25, 1998.
"Everything [was working]," Francona said. "He elevated, he cut it, he spun it, he two-seamed it. He had everything going." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Kluber's eight-inning Game Score of 98 ties the highest mark in Cleveland's franchise history. Len Barker (May 15, 1981) and Dennis Eckersley (May 30, 1977) also had a 98 Game Score in an outing for the Indians. Barker's came in a perfect game and Eckersley's came in a no-hitter. Kluber is the first pitcher since at least 1914 to post a Game Score of 98 in no more than eight innings. More >
With two outs in the fourth inning, Lackey hit Kipnis square in the back with a pitch, prompting a warning from home-plate umpire Mike Everitt to both teams. Francona emerged from the dugout and was ejected from the game after arguing with the umpire. For Francona, who stayed on the field for a few minutes to demonstratively display his disagreement, it marked his first ejection since June 8, 2013. Francona has been tossed 37 times in his managerial career.
"I knew if I went out there [Everitt] was going to throw me out," Francona said. "I just wanted him to tell me ... that [Lackey] wasn't throwing at Kip. I said, 'Just tell me,' and he wouldn't and that's when I probably said some things that I shouldn't have. He still hasn't answered my question. And I think if he would have answered it, he would have acted differently because … I thought he deserved it, the way he didn't respond or lack of response, he deserved to be yelled at." More >
Cardinals:Michael Wacha (5-0, 2.09 ERA) toes the rubber for St. Louis in the last of a three-game series in Cleveland. It's their final road game before heading back to St. Louis for a three-game set with the Tigers. Five of Wacha's six starts this season have been quality starts, and he's pitched into the sixth inning of every game.
Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (2-1, 4.19 ERA) is slated to take the mound for the Indians in the finale of this Interleague set with St. Louis at 12:10 p.m. ET/11:10 a.m. CT. The young starter has 34 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings, but picked up his first loss of the year on Friday against the Twins. Bauer gave up five runs on nine hits in five innings, striking out five and walking one.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.