July 24, 2014

Indians 5 Rangers 2: Ding Dong! The streak is dead!

Corey KluberEight straight. 16 of 20. 12 straight on the road.

All of those losing skids went by the wayside last night in muggy yet windy Arlington, Texas thanks to a local boy turned good. Of all of the surprising storylines with the Indians thus far in 2013, perhaps the biggest shocker has been the rise of starting pitcher Corey Kluber.

Kluber was acquired from San Diego on July 31, 2010 as a part of a three-team deal which sent the ultra-consistent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis. He has been in the organization for just about three years and has been looked at mostly as an afterthought; a rotation filler kind of guy. Kluber got a taste of the majors down the stretch last year, making 12 starts. He certainly didn’t get anyone too excited with his 5.14 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, but he did strike out 54 in 63 innings.

Heading into Spring, Kluber was in the race for the fifth starter job, but he was a long shot. Even with a shot to get a spot start during that first week of the season with Carlos Carrasco suspended and Scott Kazmir on the DL, the Indians chose rookie Trevor Bauer over Kluber. But Kluber continued to bide his time in Columbus and when Brett Myers went down, Kluber got the call to replace him in the rotation.

I will be the first to admit I was very skeptical about what the 27-year old righty could do based on what I saw in August and September last year. But here we are with Kluber now looking like a solid, back-end of the rotation, steady innings eater with upside. Last night, he put on a virtuoso performance when his team needed it the most.

For seven innings, Kluber held one of the best offensive attacks in baseball scoreless. Normally, we see him as a strikeout/fly ball pitcher. But last night, he channeled his inner Westbrook and had the Rangers pounding the ball into the ground. 14 of the outs Kluber recorded came via the ground ball. Normally when he is at his best, he has a high strikeout count, but last night, Kluber K’d just three. However he did it, it was the exact kind of performance his team desperately needed to end their losing streak. And he did so right in his own backyard.

“It really wasn’t any different than another game,” Kluber said. “I’ve seen, I couldn’t tell you how many games here. I’ve thrown here in college summer league. … It really didn’t feel any different.”

On the night Corey went eight innings, allowing one run on six hits. Three double plays certainly helped his cause (I have to mention the absolute seed Michael Brantley threw to Reynolds at third in the sixth to nail Leury Garcia).

“He’s getting better right in front of our eyes,” Manager Terry Francona said. “For him to go out there today and kind of shoulder that responsibility, we’re really proud of him.”

The offense is still a work in progress and there were some positives that came out of this one. Facing lefty Derek Holland, who has owned the Indians during his career, it looked like another long night was ahead of them. Holland struck out the side in the first. They got two hits in the second, but nothing came of it. They put two more on an inning later but again didn’t score. In the fourth, they managed to push across the first run of the game on a Mark Reynolds RBI single, scoring Ryan Raburn who had doubled.

The fifth was where they finally got to Holland.

Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles started the frame with back to back singles and both advanced into scoring position on an error from Holland. Drew Stubbs, hitting leadoff in place of Michael Bourn (day off), reached down for a pitch and drove it to left for a single which scored both Gomes and Aviles. A frustrated Holland then hit Kipnis, bringing the struggling Nick Swisher to the plate. Hitting right-handed, Swish drove in his 23rd run of the season with a single to center.

But just as you think the Tribe offense is on the verge of a breakout, things quickly skid to a halt. After a Raburn flyout, Holland walked Santana and was lifted for reliever Kyle McClellan. With two on and one out, Reynolds swung at the first pitch and grounded into an inning-ending double play. They would put runners on in each of the last four innings, including stealing three bases off of catcher A.J. Pierzynski, but never could make the game a laugher. The Tribe was just 3-14 with runners in scoring position and added the insurance run in the seventh on a walk, a steal, and a wild pitch.

But hey, lets stay positive here. Kluber was fantastic and the Indians finally ended their skid. Take away his one bad start in Detroit on May 10th where he gave up eight earned runs in four and two-thirds and Kluber has an ERA of 3.08, a WHIP of 1.09, and has 53 K’s in 52.2 innings of work (h/t @MLBastian). That is all you can ask for from a back end of the rotation starter.

“It’s unbelievable,” Reynolds said. “Every time he pitches, we know there’s a chance that we’re going to win. Just the fact that he throws strikes and keeps us in the game. I think the best example of it was in New York, when he gave up six early and then held them down the rest of the time. A lot of guys would’ve mailed it in. He stayed out there and battled all night. I think tonight he got rewarded for it.”

The brutal nine-game trip finally comes to an end tonight. The Tribe gets a shot to take the series in Texas when they send Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 5.03 ERA) to the mound. He will match up with Nick Tepesch (3-5, 3.92 ERA).

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Phew! Good to get that monkey off of their backs. It must have felt so good, how about another?

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    Foot officially in mouth. I thought Kluber had no shot at this game, glad to see I was wrong. All it took was the best start of his career. Honestly though, it was great to see the pitching look sharp and the bats start to wake up.

  • nj0

    Kluber may be the best pitcher we have.

  • Harv 21

    How messed up is the collective team psyche when lead-footed Santana goes brainlock with a suicide try for second on a single, and Joe Smith runs straight toward the dugout after the final out – he didn’t freakin’ know he was pitching the ninth inning!

    Think deeply about this. A team with this manager and these veterans just shouldn’t ever get quite this deep in the funk.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Joe Smith wasn’t alone we all forgot what a win looked and felt like for the Indians!

  • mgbode

    it depends on the day. Masterson, Jiminez, McAllister, and Kluber all can be that guy.

    Zach seems the most consistent start-to-start when he was healthy.
    Masterson has the most upside and best overall numbers this year.
    Ubaldo is either great or terrible with no in-between mode.
    And Kluber has that sparkling SO:BB ratio.

    If Corey can keep the grounders coming and keep his SO:BB, then he sure could be that best pitcher the rest of the season.

  • mgbode

    will the Rangers be dumb enough to sit Profar again?

  • Vindictive_Pat

    No, but we can still win it! I believe!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    If Corey can keep the grounders coming and keep his SO:BB, then he sure could be that best pitcher the rest of the season.

    …Man that is a scary thought and just underlines the possible trade for a SP if near contention before the trade deadline.

  • nj0

    It’s not scary at all. I know you don’t like advanced stats, but they like Kluber. Stats like FIP and xFIP (which try to factor out how team fielding influences pitching stats) have Kluber as a top ten guy in baseball.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    So your the one!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Top 10 guy overall, pitcher, starting pitcher? That right there is why I’m not a stats guy and like I said dig deep enough and you can find a stat for just about everything.

  • Jason Hurley

    This is exactly the type of game they won consistently during their big win-binge. Maybe they can turn it back around into a winning 10-of-12 streak.

  • mgbode

    I think Kluber will always be a guy whose ERA is worse than his FIP. His pitches just seem more hittable leading to that higher LD%.

    I do like that it appears he is learning. His FB% is down and of those FBs, more are IFFB this year. Good signs for a ‘youngish’ pitcher.

  • mgbode

    it’s just about keeping things in context. he’s not a top10 guy, nor is nj0 saying he is. just that he has legitimate tools and, as I mentioned, he appears to be learning to hone them.

    SO:BB is one of the most important things to look at in a SP. now, if they are giving up too many hits, it doesn’t matter (Kluber last year), but it’s something to track.

    I have much more faith in our rotation today than I did in April (though it would be hard to have less).

  • mgbode

    the good thing is we should know if we are winning or losing by the 3rd inning. Ubaldo is pitching afterall.

  • Jaker

    Nice. A win tonight would be tremendous, just to be one game under .500 after that terrible road trip.

    Hopefully we get Dr. Ubaldo and not Mr. Jimenez.

  • Slooz
  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’m totally “that guy”

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Wait so when nj0 typed “Stats like FIP and xFIP have Kluber as a top ten guy in baseball” he didn’t literally mean it? It’s a contextual thing? No it’s a stats thing and why I don’t believe you can solely judge by numbers alone.

    Ladies and gentleman of the jury I rest my case.

    As for the rotation granted they have a little more of a track record but I would hardly say that track record has improved how most people felt about it. If anything it’s underlined how undependable the starting five is, was and could be.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The world needs ditch diggers too! ;-)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    How’d you guess my day job?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    My first choice was undertaker but not much difference.

  • nj0

    Stats like batting average have Jhonny Peralta as a top ten guy. Stats like HRs and RBIs have Edwin Encarnacion as a top ten guy. Do I really have to spend my whole day spelling everything out? Thanks for reminding me why I stopped coming here.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well clearly you haven’t been gone long enough for me to have noticed!