Second Thoughts Game #93: Royals 0, Indians 3
Kluber finishes first half on a high note with shutout performance
Corey KKKKKKKluber at it again!
As has become the corny tradition on Twitter and social media here in Tribe nation, the play-by-play following Indians starter Corey Kluber included the addition of an extra “K” with each strikeout the right-hander recorded. Well, Friday night proved to be another opportune time to let the K’s fly both grammatically and pitching-wise as Kluber dominated the visiting Royals at Progressive Field with seven punchouts in seven and two thirds shutout innings of work.
You have to give this young man credit. Here we are nearing the All-Star Break and not only has he filled a role vacated by the long-injured Brett Myers, he has taken tremendous strides practically out of nowhere to become a reliable and even at times dominant major league starter. Keep in mind that at the beginning of the year coming out of spring training, Kluber was basically an afterthought for the rotation and wasn’t even called up as a starter. He made two appearances from the bullpen until being promoted to the starting five following the departure of Myers to the disabled list.
In now 15 starts since joining the rotation, the 27-year-old has had his ups and downs, but gradually has found consistency, thus gaining the respect of fans and his teammates. In fact, an argument can be made that outside of the three complete-game shutouts twirled by Indians ace Justin Masterson, Kluber owns some of the team’s most dominant pitching performances. The eight innings of one-run ball against Texas immediately followed by an eight-inning shutout effort against the Nationals are most noteworthy. However, Friday night’s dominant start could also factor into that category.
Corey Kluber now enters the All-Star Break with a 7-5 record and a 3.88 ERA, something that not many folks saw coming (not even me as the IBI’s #1 Kluber fan). As things stand presently, Kluber doesn’t appear to be on the verge of losing his rotation spot anytime soon heading into the second half. Look for him and his nerves of steel to hopefully continue the success he’s had so far, only more consistently.
Better late than never
I like to consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the game of baseball, but how Bruce Chen continues to shut down the Indians year after year is something I can’t find a firm and logical answer to. The left-hander made only his first start of the year on Friday night after moving out of the Royals bullpen and switching places with Luis Mendoza and resumed his perennial dominance against the Tribe holding them to just one hit and one walk over six shutout innings.
What’s so puzzling is Chen only tops out between 83-87 mph on his pitches, yet hitters, particularly if they have the word “Cleveland” on their uniform have not been able to solve him. Does he mix and locate his pitches just so perfectly that hitters stay off balance? Does the unnaturally low velocity actually throw batters for a loop and cause them to swing and miss? Well, whatever the reason, Chen kept the Wahoos in check once again, but they weren’t about to quit.
Royals manager Ned Yost pulled his starter after six innings despite Chen leaving Indians hitters completely clueless at the plate and in came “Tiny” Tim Collins, whom the Tribe had actually enjoyed success against this season. That trend continued on Friday as Collins gave up back-to-back singles to open the seventh and that was enough for Yost as he went back to his bullpen for right-hander Aaron Crow, who didn’t fare much better giving up three more hits to plate three runs to break the scoreless tie and give the Tribe the 3-0 advantage.
And just like that, the Indians have rallied late to back up dominant outings by their starters to give them a chance to earn the win. Who could forget the masterful debut by Danny Salazar earlier this week backed up by the offense to earn his first win? A great Hollywood script of an MLB debut followed up by the shutout performance by Corey Kluber on Friday, which also relied on a latter-inning rally to earn him the victory.
Quick Game Facts:
- The Indians completed their American League-leading 12th shutout on Friday night. Only the Pirates have more in Major League Baseball with 13.
- Despite making five less starts, Corey Kluber now has the second most strikeouts by an Indians pitcher this season with 94, trailing Justin Masterson’s 137.
- After losing three of four to Detroit to open the home stand, Cleveland has now turned it around and won three of their last four.
- The Indians are now 49-44 on the year. The last time they won 50 games before the All-Star Break was 2007, the last time they went to the playoffs.
Up Next: Royals vs. Indians @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 7:05pm ET.
While Terry Francona didn’t say he put these final few games of the first half above any of the others his team has played, he did acknowledge that it would be ideal for his team to have some momentum to carry into the All-Star break. As things stand now, the Tribe remains two and a half games out of first place due to Detroit handily beating the Rangers 7-2. Winning at least one of these final two games against Kansas City is all that stands in the way of the Erie Warriors taking a series victory into the break.
It’s been an action-packed first half here in Cleveland with many highs and lows, yet our beloved featherheads are still right on the heels of the mighty Tigers in the division race. Here’s to no second half collapse again this year!
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.
Now, Kluber looks like a legitimate middle of the rotation starter. Not only is his 3.88ERA incredibly solid, the advanced metrics suggest that he could be getting a little unlucky (.323 BABIP), and could continue to see his ERA drop as the season continues.
Perhaps the best part of all of this is that Kluber is under team control through 2018, as are McAllister, Bauer, and Salazar. For once, the future looks bright for Indians starting pitching.