DETROIT — Corey Kluber gave Cleveland’s pitching staff a bit of a breather.
Kluber came within an out of a complete game, striking out 10 to lift the Indians over the Detroit Tigers 6-2 in the opener of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader.
Kluber allowed seven hits — three by Miguel Cabrera — and equaled his career high of 114 pitches. Bryan Shaw finally relieved him, but with another game still to come, Cleveland didn’t have to use anyone else out of its bullpen.
“That was the only guy we warmed up,” manager Terry Francona said. “That really helps.”
Kluber (10-6) has thrown one complete game in his career, on April 24 against Kansas City.
Drew VerHagen (0-1) allowed three runs and five hits, lasting five innings in his major league debut. He struck out four of his first six batters, but the 23-year-old right-hander didn’t fan another after that bright start.
“He gave us a chance to win. He gave us five solid innings,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. “No complaints about Drew VerHagen whatsoever.”
Cleveland’s Yan Gomes had three hits and scored three runs on his 27th birthday. The Indians pulled within 5 1/2 games of the first-place Tigers in the AL Central.
Kluber struck out at least 10 for the fifth time this season.
“I located my fastball pretty well for the most part, pitched inside enough to keep them honest,” Kluber said. “I’m not trying to strike guys out. My game plan is to go out there and pound the strike zone. If it happens to get some swing-and-misses, great. If it happens to get some early outs, great.”
Cleveland managed one hit in the first four innings before breaking through in the fifth. After a leadoff walk by Lonnie Chisenhall, Nick Swisher lifted an RBI double, and David Murphy and Jason Kipnis added run-scoring singles to make it 3-0.
Detroit scored in the bottom half on a two-out infield single by Austin Jackson. Kipnis, the second baseman, came charging in, but he double-clutched a bit before making the throw, and the speedy Jackson beat it out, enabling a run to score from third.
Ian Kinsler followed with a line drive to third that was caught by a diving Chisenhall.
The 6-foot-6 VerHagen was called up to pitch in this doubleheader, and he struck out the first two hitters he faced. After the first strikeout, catcher Bryan Holaday tossed the ball back to the Detroit dugout, presumably to be saved for the rookie.
“Obviously had some nerves going but was able to control them,” VerHagen said. “And the two strikeouts right away helped.”
The only hit off VerHagen during the first four innings was a bunt single by Michael Brantley.
But Kluber had little trouble with the Detroit lineup. He struck out the side in the seventh, and it looked like he might finish the game until he allowed a couple doubles in the ninth.
“I know everyone wants to stay in and finish, and he probably deserved to,” Francona said. “But you hate to see a guy work real hard after he’s thrown that many pitches. I just don’t think that helps him for his next start.”
Kipnis made it 4-1 with an RBI single in the seventh, and Murphy and Asdrubal Cabrera added run-scoring singles in the ninth.
NOTES: The day-night doubleheader was scheduled because of an April 15 postponement. There was a light drizzle during the early innings Saturday, but no delays. … Detroit’s Nick Castellanos struck out three times. … Cabrera is 15 for 28 (.536) against Kluber. … Holaday threw out three runners on steal attempts.