Cleveland — Corey Kluber's closing argument for the AL Cy Young Award was a convincing one.
Kluber struck out 11 in eight innings, and the Cleveland Indians beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 1-0, on Friday night.
The game concluded about an hour before Cleveland was eliminated from playoff contention by Oakland's 6-2 victory at Texas. The A's victory also put an end to Kluber's breakout season.
Kluber (18-9), who allowed five hits and walked two, is tied for the AL lead in wins. He recorded his 11th double-digit strikeout game of the season and leads the majors with 269 strikeouts.
"He looked like he was on a mission, but he's looked like that all season," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That was Corey Kluber at his best, and he's done it so many times."
The race for the AL Cy Young Award appears to be down to Kluber and Seattle's Felix Hernandez. The Mariners ace, who was roughed up in his last outing, is expected to start Sunday.
Kluber, as he has all season, deflected talk of any personal achievement.
"It's not my call," Kluber said when asked about his chances. "It would be a great accomplishment, but the biggest thing is the team winning."
Cody Allen, who pitched a perfect ninth for his 24th save, believes Kluber should win baseball's biggest prize for a pitcher.
"He's been our horse all year," Allen said. "He's an elite talent. He's a guy you can run out there and match him up against anybody. Every time he pitches we have a pretty good chance to win. A guy like him is pretty special."
Kluber was at his best when his team needed him the most, going 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA in his last five starts. He had recorded 14 strikeouts in each of his past two outings, becoming the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2004 to have consecutive 14-strikeout games.
Kluber also helped Cleveland set the major league record for strikeouts in a season when he fanned David DeJesus in the eighth inning for the team's 1,429th K of the season. Detroit's pitchers fanned 1,428 in 2013.
"That says we've got pitchers on this staff with good stuff," Kluber said. "That record speaks volumes for our staff."
Jose Ramirez homered in the first for the game's only run.
Chris Archer (10-9) pitched 72/3 innings of three-hit ball for the Rays. The right-hander went 1-1 with a sparkling 0.86 ERA in his final three starts of the year.
Kluber's biggest jam came in the seventh. Matt Joyce reached on a one-out single and Kevin Kiermaier drew a four-pitch walk with two away. Kluber struck out Ryan Hanigan looking on a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.
Kluber finished with a flourish, striking out DeJesus and Evan Longoria to end the eighth.
Kluber struck out the side in the first and also fanned two in the third and fifth. James Loney led off the second with a single, but Nick Franklin bounced into a double play. After Matt Joyce walked, Brandon Guyer struck out.
Loney singled with two outs in the fourth, but Franklin grounded out. Kiermaier tripled with two down in the fifth, but Hanigan fouled out to first baseman Carlos Santana, who tumbled to the ground while making the catch.
"The elevated fastball was his friend," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He did a nice job with that. He was not throwing the ball with the middle part of the plate very often tonight."
The Indians scored 19 runs in Kluber's previous three starts, but struggled again with their ace on the mound. Cleveland averaged just 1.1 runs in his nine losses.
Archer's only mistake cost him the game. He struck out six and walked two.