Indians' Kluber looks to level series vs. A's

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber missed almost the entire month of May with an upper-back injury but still ranks among the strikeout leaders in American league with 123 in 93 1/3 innings.

Oakland Athletics rookie right-hander Paul Blackburn didn't strike out a single batter on July 6 at Seattle but held the Mariners to one run over 7 2/3 innings and got his first major league victory in his third career start.

When Kluber and Blackburn meet Saturday night in the second game of a three-game series at the Oakland Coliseum, it will be a contrast in pitching styles pitting power against finesse.

Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner, has been on a roll since coming off the disabled list June 1 and facing the A's. He allowed two hits, struck out 10 and walked one over six innings in an 8-0 victory at Progressive Field.

Kluber went 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA in six starts in June and was named the AL's Pitcher of the Month. He struck out 64 and walked seven over 43 innings. In eight starts since coming off the DL, he's 4-1 with a 1.29 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 66 innings.

"I think that's part of the process of rehabbing is to make sure you are ready when you do come back, not just come back the first opportunity you have when you're healthy," Kluber said Friday before Oakland's 5-0 victory in the series opener. "I had a rehab start. I had a couple bullpens. I just wanted to make sure I felt like I was in a spot I wanted to be. I think that being healthy had a lot to do with it, not trying to make stuff up on the fly and figure out what I could get to work."

Kluber averages 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings and has had double-digit strikeouts in seven of his past nine games. Even so, Kluber said he said he doesn't go into games trying to rack up big strikeout numbers.

"Strikeouts get a lot of publicity, but it's just a by-product of making good pitches," Kluber said.

Blackburn is 1-0 with a 0.66 ERA over 13 2/3 innings with four strikeouts and two walks.

"If I can go out there and strike out no one in every outing and our team gets the win, that's completely fine with me," Blackburn said.

Blackburn keeps hitters off balance by changing speed and location with his pitches. He consistently throws strikes and has shown surprising composure since being called up from Triple-A Nashville on July 1.

"There's excitement going on in me, but I usually won't show it," Blackburn said. "Just kind of keep all my emotions to myself. It helps me focus a little better, just keeping everything in. I've always been like that."

Kluber will make his seventh career start and eighth appearance against the A's. He's 2-4 with a 2.45 ERA and 36 strikeouts vs. Oakland.

Blackburn will make his first career start against Cleveland.

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