ARLINGTON -- Corey Kluber only needed a half-hour in the car to get to Rangers Ballpark when he was a kid. If he ever imagined himself pitching a gem on the stadium's mound, it was probably not as a visitor.
On Tuesday night, working in the kind of hot conditions in which he was raised, the hometown kid quieted Texas' potent lineup. Kluber turned in a solid outing en route to a 5-2 victory for the Indians, helping the club pull even with the Rangers in the series and end its lengthy eight-game losing streak.
"I don't think I'm used to it anymore," Kluber said of the Texas heat. "I don't know how we used to play two or three games a day in it."
All the elements that had gone missing of late for the Tribe returned.
Kluber provided the club with a strong performance on the mound and the offense broke through when opportunities arose. The Indians, who have won just five of their past 21 games, also received a sampling of stellar defense. Kluber kept the infielders active with 14 outs on the ground created with a mix of sliders and cutters.
Indians manager Terry Francona raved about Kluber after the victory. Francona joked that he and pitching coach Mickey Callaway practically ran to Yankee Stadium last Wednesday because they were so excited to see Kluber taken on New York ace CC Sabathia. Kluber's improvement has accelerated at a rapid pace lately, making it no surprise that he was the one who ended Cleveland's losing streak.
"He's getting better right in front of our eyes," Francona said. "For him to go out there today and kind of shoulder that responsibility, we're really proud of him."
It is beginning to look like Kluber's rough outing against the Tigers on May 10, when he allowed eight runs over 4 2/3 innings, is an aberration more than anything else. In his six starts since that setback, the right-hander has posted a 3.09 ERA with 37 strikeouts against six walks in 35 innings. Toss out that start against Detroit and Kluber has a 3.08 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in his other 10 appearances this season.
Indians third baseman Mark Reynolds pointed to Kluber's Wednesday start in New York as a testament to how the pitcher is growing in ability. The Yankees plated six runs (four earned) in the first two innings, but Kluber quickly settled down and settled in, giving the Indians six innings with no more runs relinquished.
"It's unbelievable," Reynolds said. "Every time he pitches, we know there's a chance that we're going to win. Just the fact that he throws strikes and keeps us in the game. I think the best example of it was in New York, when he gave up six early and then held them down the rest of the time. A lot of guys would've mailed it in.
"He stayed out there and battled all night. I think tonight he got rewarded for it."
Kluber (4-4) had Reynolds to thank for his part in a critical defensive play against the Rangers.
In the sixth inning, after Leury Garcia and Elvis Andrus drew consecutive walks from Kluber, David Murphy sliced a pitch to deep left field. Michael Brantley made the catch for the inning's first out and Garcia tagged up at second base before sprinting toward third. The Tribe's left fielder fired the ball to Reynolds, who swiftly applied the tag on Garcia for a rally-killing double play.
Kluber put the finishing touch on the frame by forcing Lance Berkman to ground out.
"Everybody made plays," Kluber said. "Brantley made a great throw and then Mark made a nice pick, being able to pick it and tag him right away. That was a big double play. That was a big point in the game."
The play preserved the 4-0 advantage that Cleveland built against Rangers left-hander Derek Holland in his 4 1/3 innings on the hill. The Indians first broke through in the fourth inning, when Reynolds pushed a pitch into right field for a run-scoring single, marking his first RBI since May 29. In the fifth inning, the Tribe added three runs off Holland, who bowed out of the ballgame before the end of the frame.
The Indians added a fifth run in the seventh, when Jason Kipnis scored from third base on a wild pitch from Rangers reliever Kyle McClellan.
The lead was more than sufficient for the 27-year-old Kluber, who played high school baseball in Coppell, Texas, which is located roughly 25 miles north of Rangers Ballpark. Over eight innings, the right-hander scattered six hits, wore down the infield grass with a pile of groundouts and sidestepped a handful of dicey situations the Rangers gave him. Kluber had 34 strikeouts in his past 27 innings heading into Tuesday's start, but struck out just three on this night.
"We kind of talked about how they're a really aggressive team," Kluber said. "We kind of used that against them a little bit. I was expanding on them and getting them to chase some pitches, and getting soft contact."
The Rangers' lone run against Kluber came in the eighth inning, when Jurickson Profar came through with a pinch-hit single and later crossed the plate on a double from Murphy. A.J. Pierzynski hit a solo home run with one out in the ninth off reliever Joe Smith, but that was where Texas' comeback bid came to a close.
After the game, Kluber's cell phone buzzed with messages from a host of friends who were at the game. Even so, the pitcher downplayed the fact that he was pitching back home for the first time as a big leaguer.
"I've seen, I couldn't tell you how many games here," Kluber said. "But it really didn't feel any different."
The game sure felt different for the Indians as a whole, though.
"It's good to get back in the 'W' column," Reynolds said. "We can stop worrying about it now and just relax and play ball."