June 16, 2013
At the end of last season Corey Kluber was in the Tribe rotation, and not necessarily because he was ready for the majors. He was in the rotation because frankly, there wasn't anybody else to start. But even though he got knocked around, there were some promising things that came from those hard knocks. He struck out 7.7 batters/9 and walked 2.6 batters/9 for a 3.00 SO/BB ratio. That may not have helped him in 2012, but that augured well for the future. Kluber had the stuff to get major-league hitters out, but he hadn't quite gotten his down within the strike zone.
This season, with the additions of Brett Myers and Scott Kazmir, Kluber started the season in Columbus, and wasn't even the first or the second starter on the depth chart. Carlos Carrasco, back from Tommy John surgery, and Trevor Bauer, one of baseball's best pitching prospects, were called up before him. But Corey's opportunity came when Brett Myers went on the DL and the other starters weren't available. And he took advantage of it, starting the Indians' 18-4 run by pitching a gem in the second of that doubleheader in Kansas City. Sure, he's had his struggles (8 runs against Detroit, six runs against the Yankees), but for the most part he's given the Indians a good chance to win the game that he started.
Today Kluber did more than just gave the Indians a chance to win. He just about won the game himself. Matched up against Washington phenom Stephen Strasburg, Kluber matched him and then some, in the process extricating himself out of jam after jam, all while only having a 1-0 lead.
- First inning. Anthony Rendon hits a one-out double, Kluber retires the next two batters.
- Fourth inning. After a single and an error, there were runners on first and third with nobody out. Kluber strikes out the next three batters.
- Sixth inning. Two singles lead to runners on first and third with nobody out. Kluber strikes out Ryan Zimmerman, then induces a ground ball double play.
- Seventh inning. A double, a hit batter, and a single loads the bases with nobody out. Kluber gets a bit lucky, as Jhonatan Solano hits a liner right at first baseman Mark Reynolds for a double play, and gets a grounder to get out of the inning.
That's four rather serious jams, with the most difficult one occurring when he was approaching the 100 pitch mark. Kluber threw 114 pitches on the day, striking out eight and not walking a batter. That's a big boy line there, especially considering the score. And because the Indians used most of their key relievers in yesterday's loss, today's gem allows Terry Francona the freedom to use Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith tomorrow against the Royals. Kluber not only won today's game, but gave the team a better chance to win tomorrow and Tuesday.
The Tribe offense didn't have to do much, and as it turned out, they didn't do much. They managed just four hits on the day, but made them count. The first hit of the game came in the fourth, and was Carlos Santana's RBI single. The fourth hit of the game came in the eighth inning, and it was Michael Bourn's double. That double led to the Tribe's second run of the game. That second run gave Vinnie Pestano a bit more breathing room, though he didn't ultimately need it.
So the Indians have ended their run of games against contenders with a late flurry, winning the series in Texas and the series at home against Washington. They still went 8-17 in the stretch that started on May 21st, but they're still at .500, and more importantly, still within hailing distance of both the Tigers and the Wild Card. The schedule isn't getting drastically easier from on out, as they have 9 games against the surging Royals, four games against the 40-30 Orioles, and four more games against the Tigers.
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