Tribe Weekend Wrapup: A Ode To Corey Kluber

Corey Kluber

Corey KluberCould “Team Streak” be trending upwards again? Your Cleveland Indians were a blown save away from sweeping the Washington Nationals out of Progressive Field this weekend in grand fashion. They settled for a series win, which you will take all day long especially when the opposing pitchers are Tribe killer Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg. They didn’t really do anything special in taking the series, but they had some exceptional individual performances, highlighted by Corey Kluber on Sunday.

The nasty part of their schedule is now behind them. The Wahoos have been cold, hot, then cold again,which makes sense when you see their 34-34 record. But with the schedule softening up considerably, do the Indians have the juice to stay with the division leading Detroit Tigers? They sit in second place, four and a half games back and over the next 16 games, they only play three against a team over .500 (Baltimore). Now is as good of a time as any to make a move.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I spent mine with my family watching a Tribe win at Progressive Field. It was a perfect end to a perfect weekend. So let us look back at the weekend that was in Wahooland.

There is only one place to start. Corey F’ing Kluber.

Here is a serious question for you Tribe fans. If you had to win one game right now to get into the playoffs and every one of your pitchers was on full rest, who do you choose? Sure, the stock answer would be Justin Masterson, the Indians number one guy. After all, he was spectacular Friday night in the 2-1 walk-off win over Gonzalez and the Nats. But judging the last month and a half, you would have to seriously have to consider Kluber. Now there is something I NEVER thought I would say. We all rained superlatives on him his last time out when he went eight innings against the Texas Rangers in what was his career performance. Yesterday, he may have been even better.

Facing off with Strasburg, Kluber matched the Nationals phenom pitch for pitch. But it wasn’t just the stuff that made him great, it was his ability to work out of jams. There were three tough situations Kluber fell into, two of which were not of his own doing. After an Anthony Rendon leadoff single in the fourth, Ryan Zimmerman hit a double play ground ball to third baseman John McDonald. Johnny Mac, making his first start of the season, threw the ball wide of second and into right field, setting up the Nats with runners on the corners and nobody out. Kluber didn’t flinch, striking out the next three Nationals to end the inning.

In the sixth, with the Tribe nursing a 1-0 lead, two singles and an error once again put the Nats in prime scoring position. Kluber calmly K’d Zimmerman for the key first out. Next was lefty Adam Laroche. Kluber has never been known as a groundball pitcher, but something has clicked over these last two starts for him. In Texas, he induced 14 groundball outs. He needed one badly in this spot and he got one. Laroche hit a grounder to Jason Kipnis at second which started a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play. The 23,000 plus all stood and cheered for more.

But Kluber wasn’t even close to done.

An inning later, Jayson Werth perfectly placed a bloop double in to right field. Ian Desmond was then hit by a pitch. Pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi attempted to put down a sacrifice bunt. He popped it up in front of the plate. Kluber came charging in and dove for the ball, but couldn’t come up with it. Everyone was safe and the bases were loaded with nobody out. I think everyone watching the game thought that things were finally going to catch up with Corey. Jorge Solano was next. Kluber had K’d him in his first two at-bats. Down 0-2 in the count, Solano hit a line drive right at first baseman Mark Reynolds who snagged the ball and tagged first for a gigantic double play. Roger Bernadina had no chance. This was Kluber’s day. The outfielder weakly grounded out to second and once again the Nationals couldn’t push that tying run across.

“Once we got into those jams,” Kluber said, “I was just trying to take it pitch by pitch and not get ahead of myself and get too far into the inning, just worry about executing each pitch and pitch to the situation.

With the magic acts his starting pitcher had come up with, Terry Francona could have easily gone to his pen, but he stuck with Kluber for the eighth and was rewarded when Denard Span, Rendon, and Zimmerman were retired on order. Kluber walked off to a standing ovation. His line: Eight innings, zero runs, seven hits, eight strikeouts and once again, zero walks.

In 65.1 innings this season, Kluber has 65 K’s and just 12 walks.

“He was so good all day,” Francona said. “From pitch 1, he was aggressive with his fastball. I don’t think he even threw a changeup today. Even vs. left-handers, he just was in attack mode. That was really fun to watch. I wish we could have had about five [runs] just to give a little cushion, but that was really fun to watch.”

This is Corey Freaking Kluber we are talking about people. Talk about coming out of nowhere. It is not a stretch to say that the 27-year old has saved the Tribe’s rotation from the brink of disaster. He has rapidly become a stabilizing force in a season where three of the five pitchers expected to open the season in the rotation have spent time on the disabled list. Two of them – Zach McAllister and Brett Myers – still are.

Hearing the compliments from your own teammates and coaches is one thing, but listen to what Werth had to say about Kluber after facing him Sunday:

“I tell you what, that guy that threw for them today, the stuff that he had, that’s probably top-five stuff that we’ll see all year,” Werth said. “He had some really good stuff, especially when he had to make pitches. He even stepped it up a little bit.”

I just wrote almost 1000 words about how good Corey Kluber is. Yeah….that really just happened people!

What to do about Swish?

I really enjoy Nick Swisher the person. But the player thus far has left a lot to be desired. He is mired in a 6-55 slump (.109) and his defense has suffered of late as well. The capper was Saturday night in the ninth inning of a tie ball game. With two outs, Rendon hit a foul pop behind first base. Swisher backpeddled and called off Kipnis, but couldn’t get to the ball as it dropped foul right between them, giving Rendon another life.

Naturally, he hit a game-winning solo home run off of Vinnie Pestano to beat the Tribe 7-6. The play was kind of a microcosm of Swisher’s slump. He is out there, but nothing seems to be working.

Said Swisher: “That shouldn’t happen to us, but it did and it cost us the game. It was a miscommunication and it’s already been addressed.”

Earlier in the game, Swisher was seen shaking his shoulder after a swing. Sunday he was given the day off and we were alerted to the fact that Nick’s left shoulder problem has popped back up.

“I’m grinding guys,” said Swisher. “I want to be in there every day regardless of what I got going on. Obviously, it’s starting to physically show a little bit.  I’ve been battling this shoulder thing the whole year. It’s super frustrating for me because I’ve never had something like this,” he said. “Either way, we have to figure out what is going on and then we will go from there.”

Then came the quote that may have been telling:

“I just don’t feel I have the thump in my swing,” he said. “Whatever decision we make tomorrow, we are going to go at it full on.”

Is this foreshadowing to a trip to the Disabled List? Who knows, but it wouldn’t shock me if Swish was shut down for a little. He is really struggling with the bat and if he is not right physically, the Indians have other options. Lonnie Chisenhall (.390/.456/.676/6 HR/26 RBIs/27 games) has made eight errors in Columbus, but he has outgrown AAA at the plate and is ready to come back to Cleveland. Reynolds, as we have documented in the past, seems to be better as a DH and a part time first baseman then an everyday third baseman. It would be a simple switch.

Whatever they need to do to get Swisher back on track, the sooner it happens, the better.

The bullpen is still a work in progress. 

One of the most telling this I saw this weekend was Francona sending Kluber back out for the eighth inning despite being over 100 pitches and working out of the three jams we chronicled. With Chris Perez still on the DL and the pen being shaky, Tito figured he would rather take his chances with the hot Kluber. Who could blame him?

Saturday night after the Indians battled back from a 5-0 deficit to take a 6-5 lead, set-up man Joe Smith gave up a two-out, pinch hit homer to the left-handed hitting Chad Tracy in the eighth. It was a situation that screamed for a left-handed specialist, but the Francona doesn’t have one he can trust. Smitty has been solid for the past three years. It shouldn’t have been a problem. But boom, there went the Tracy fly ball over the fence. An inning later, Pestano was done in by Rendon.

Yesterday Pestano did close out the game for Kluber in the 2-0 win for his first save, but he has been far from dominating since coming off the DL with elbow issues. Other than Cody Allen and Smith, the pen has been mostly a mixed bag of results. But make no mistake, they have great arms out there. The lack of a lefty is a problem that isn’t going away. Retreads J.C. Romero and Clay Rapada are in Columbus auditioning for their shots. Hagadone and Rich Hill are completely inconsistent.

It should be interesting to see how things shake out going forward.

Up Next.

The Indians gauntlet is now in the rear-view mirror and they welcome in the Kansas City Royals for a three-game set that starts tonight. Carlos Carrasco (0-2, 15.26 ERA) gets another shot fresh off of his suspension. The Royals will counter with their ace, James Shields (2-6. 2.79 ERA) who has been the victim of horrific run support.

(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

  • ToxicToast

    After remembering such a great weekend performance, reading the name “Carlos Carrasco” is a total buzz-kill.

  • Harv 21

    The All Star break is where it all falls together, boys, if they can win a few more now and hover a few games above .500.

    Like Jared Wright and Fausto before him, Kluber comes on as the 2013 version of Mr. Lightning-Strike Starter Out of Nowhere. Pestano regains command, a chastened and rested Perez focuses on pitching after a quick resolution of his case, Smith relaxes once back in his role, Reynolds gets a shot in the microwave and Swish returns with a bounce in his swing.

    Who’s ready? I’m ready. It’s been a few years.

  • Jason Hurley

    …shoulder issues? This had better be an isolated thing. I’ve seen this movie and it ends up with him torching us from the Yankees’ roster.

  • mgbode

    Who to start in that 1 game playoff?

    Masterson is the answer, for now.

    McAllister could have been the answer had he been healthy (most consistent).

    Ubaldo could be the answer for those who like to gamble or go to bed early (by inning 3 we know if we are winning or losing)

    Bauer might be the answer in a couple years.

    But, yeah, I wouldn’t argue with Kluber the way he’s been pitching. And, heck, did I just name 5 starters from our rotation?

  • Natedawg86

    One game to get us into playoffs (one game WC) means you better have someone good pitching the first game of the next series a few days later!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Could have been a sweep but 2 of 3 after that disastrous road trip was just about what the doctor ordered. Kluber lang was a beast and I didn’t need any stats to tell me!

  • Garry_Owen

    Not so certain that the nasty part of the schedule is behind us yet. The Royals are not going to be easy and are, right now, as nasty as they come (not to mention, highly motivated to beat us). 12-5 in their last 17.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Masterson is the easy answer but it’s followed closely by option 1b. He’s not on the roster at the moment and no I don’t mean Carrasco or anyone else in the organization.

    It’s going to be interesting to see what the front office does should the Indians remain in a possible playoff hunt. Will they stand pat and let things play out figuring they did just about all they could this winter or will they shock the world and make a trade for a SP?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Great point is there ever really an “easy” or for that matter “hard” part of the schedule? The way the Indians like to streak these days who can predict.

  • LaundroMat

    AN Ode…

  • Garry_Owen

    Perez comes back, clean shaven with a high-and-tight haircut, a changed man, driven by nothing more than the desire to be the best teammate he can be an a championship squad.

  • Harv 21

    Ok, Ok, no need to draw the elephant gun on a flea.

    Thank you, Garry Buzzkill. Guess that’s why they call it a “moment” of bliss.

  • Garry_Owen

    I’m going to go with Kluber, on a very tight leash, with Masterson warmed up and ready to go, fireman style.

    My reasoning isn’t very good, but it’s all I’ve got: Seems like every time Masterson pitches, the bats go cold. Yesterday is not good evidence that run support for Kluber will be any better, but . . .

  • Garry_Owen

    They say that I’m a dreamer, and I guess I’m the only one.

    I was trying to come alongside you, add some helium to that balloon, provide some uplift to the jetstream of positivity. I guess I just went a little far. Icarus style.

    I always do that.

  • Harv 21

    Sorry, I smelled mockery. Nay, I expected it. You probably meant the return of Eduardo Perez, fresh from a stay ay an anti-aging clinic, giving the knife a final quarter-turn into the underbelly of the Seattle Mariners. That would be ok.

  • Harv 21

    That’s the “Roylas” to you. TD’s version gives them a much-needed splash of latin soul. Cuz right now they seem so grim.

  • mgbode

    who are we going to give up that is going to net us a better SP than we already have?

  • mgbode

    not to mention they have Shields v. Carrasco as one of those games.

  • Garry_Owen

    That cuts deep, and makes me want to rethink my whole life. I never thought of myself as a mocker (unless, of course, when someone REALLY deserves it). I have, however, apparently built up a certain, unfortunate persona. I am cut to the quick.

    Perhaps it’s time for me to spend some time deep in the jungles of Thailand, or maybe the quiet villages of Nepal, meditating, seeking wisdom, aligning my soul with the broader creation and community of man.

    I shall alight on the next junk.

  • mgbode

    i thought his desire would be:

    (A) to develop multiple off-speed pitches that don’t work
    (B) to become more marketable
    (C) to keep his hot but toxic agent-girlfriend

    all while losing the things that made him successful in the first place. at least, until he puts that leather jacket on just in time to save the whole movie. or season. whichever.

  • Harv 21

    Whoa, grab the reins there, seeker, don’t go all dramatic like some unspeakably awful pseudo-spiritual Julia Roberts flick. Take a meaningful breath, and let’s back up and try again. Wifey and her mother and his agent have persuaded Chris to just trim the beard. He’s promised them all to run all post-game comments by wifey via cell before pulling his head out of his locker and turning around. That’s plenty to keep them in the playoff hunt.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    It’s Monday the mighty Bruins are 1-1 with the Blackhawks, the Indians won 2 of 3, I just added prospect phenom Myers to all of my fantasy teams and you are already questioning me. DAMMMMMMMMMMM!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Technically yes but that’s how you “stat boys” are! ;-)

  • Garry_Owen

    I was thinking more of Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall, but okay, whatever . . .

    /Grabs duffel bag, jumps over the railing of the ship, swims back to the dock (under gunfire and/or poison darts from his angry would-be shipmates (I’m picturing something in between the dudes on the ship at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and those pirates from The Swiss Family Robinson), there’s an explosion of some sort, maybe some diesel fuel on the surface of the water? I’m obviously wearing a fedora – but I digress)

    Can we at least also include a slight trimming of the hair? I mean, it’s GOT to smell of either ganja or petuli oil or both . . . Please?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I always knew you were a metrosexual sort of fella at heart!!!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Can we at least also include a slight trimming of the hair?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delilah#Biblical_narrative

    NO!

  • WFNY_DP

    “‘I’m grinding guys,’ said Swisher.”

    I believe Eric Wedge wiped a solitary tear from his cheek.

  • Garry_Owen

    Not metro. Just comfortable in who I am. Renaissance man goes a little far, but I like to think it’s close.

  • Garry_Owen

    Slight trim. That’s all.
    And Samson was also blinded. I am NOT calling for that! Guy has enough trouble finding the strike zone on some nights as it is.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I tried to rock the hockey playoff look but between covering up this masterpiece and all the complaints of thighs being scratched I decided to shave! Chivalry is not dead ladies.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Doesn’t ganja help with eye sight? Perez needs to wet the locks down a la Jason Grilli in Pittsburgh. Speaking of which I would like it to be noted that I used Jason Grilli as a closer a year ago on MLB2K ’12, I’m just sayin’!

  • Garry_Owen

    Whoa! “Before you comment” HAS to apply here.

    TMI!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    My dog did it!

  • Harv 21

    not unless there was a crucial comma in there. Wedgie never minded the boys dancing a little in the locker room.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Wedge is contacting his lawyer to check on copyright infringement!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Since Gary_Owen went screaming from the room arms like an octopus “I’m telling I’m telling” I did some editing.

  • Harv 21

    Garry: slight trim, submitted and approved.

    Sham: focus is the key to staying appropriate in these digressions. It’s not about you. It’s about … you know, I’m not sure but not where you’re slipping.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You do what you do and I’ll do what I do sometimes when your throwing 99 you can’t always control it! At least that’s what Aroldis Champan told me.

  • cmm13

    flawless victory comment. Well done.

  • mgbode

    oh, thank goodness it’s only dancing. i was afraid we had our very own sweeney todd when I read it. and, we can only afford to have 1 member of the Indians in jail at a time.

  • DJM

    Let’s hope he behaves we all know what happened last time Carrasco played KC

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Mike Sweeney was a good player!

  • Harv 21

    ok, I would have probably gone with the Fargo reference, but ok, I’m with ya

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Don’t try and make up now your already on “my list” and that’s the bottom line ‘cuz $hamrock said so! ;-)

  • Harv 21

    Sorry, I actually was responding to mgbode’s sweeney todd reference but the disqus slipped off me fingers.

    Bro.