The worst bit going in Tribe circles heading into last night was the “what’s wrong with Corey Kluber” question. The answer: absolutely nothing. So he hadn’t won a game in the month of June. So what? By now you should all know how meaningless the win statistic is. Sure, Kluber was absolutely dominant in May, when his team won five of his six starts (2.09 ERA, 60 K’s in 43 IP) and in the Tribe’s only loss, he gave eight innings of one run ball. But it’s not like his June was, say, Masterson-2014-esque.
“I don’t think there’s been much of a difference in the way I’ve pitched [from month to month],” said Kluber. “It’s been a pitch here or there, but it’s about being consistent.”
Kluber had two off starts to start the month, but followed that with back to back two run outings which included a seven inning, six K, one walk performance against the Tigers where he got by solely on guts. Last night in Phoenix, the dominant one returned.
The Tribe’s true ace gave a virtuoso performance in front of thousands of West Coast Wahoo supporters in the 6-1 win. Kluber got through a shaky first thanks to a perfectly timed strikeout and double play combo and breezed to the winners circle.
The seven scoreless inning, eight strikeout, four hit, one walk outing was exactly what manager Terry Francona needed from his starter after using all nine relievers the night before in a 14-inning marathon loss.
“Obviously, we played a long game last night, but I don’t think I put any more pressure on myself to go deep in the game as I normally would,” Kluber said. “That’s what I’m trying to do every game, go as deep as I can.”
It also helps any starting pitcher when you are able to work with a lead. That is exactly what happened last night as the offense struck early and often against rookie righthander Chase Anderson.
Michael Bourn, one of the offensive stars on the night, got thing started in the first at bat of the game with a triple. He would come right home on Asdrubal Cabrera’s sacrifice fly. In the second, Yan Gomes continued to swing a better bat, notching his eight homer on the year, this one of the solo variety. An inning later it was Bourn again with his second Triple in three innings. This time he would score on a sac fly from Michael Brantley.
The offense just chipped away at Anderson each inning. They left the bases loaded in the fourth, an inning which saw Kluber get his first career Major League hit. He had pinch hit the night before. Something in his swing caught the coaching staff’s eye.
“That shocks me how guys can do that,” said Francona. “I saw (Tribe bullpen coach) Kevin Cash hit for three years and he never did that. You’re talking about guys who haven’t hit for a long time and to go up there at the major league level and throw a line drive out there amazes me.”
Dr. Smooth struck in the fifth inning with his team-leading 12th homer on the season to give Kluber that 4-0 cushion. Brantley had just 10 home runs all of last year and continues his All-Star pace. They would add two more in the seventh against Zeke Spruill thanks to an RBI double from Jason Kipnis and another RBI single by Lonnie Chisenhall.
The struggling Kipnis had five hits in this two game series and looked more fluid at the plate. It is essential to get him going. The lineup obviously looks better when he is rolling and with the re-emergence of Carlos Santana in the cleanup spot, the five hole seems to be suiting Kipnis just fine.
Scott Atchison pitched a scoreless eighth before giving way to Marc Rzcepcynzki who gave up a run in the ninth. Cody Allen came on to record the final out and preserve the win for Kluber, who pitched an absolute gem.
“When you put up all zeros, I think that speaks volumes right there,” Francona said. “I thought he was really good.”
The W ended the Tribe’s four-game losing streak. They head to Seattle after a day off and start a three-game set with the Mariners. One pitcher you won’t see in that series is Justin Masterson, who will be pushed back a few days to rest a sore knee. The Tribe will need to call up a starter for Sunday, either T.J. House or Danny Salazar will be in line for that one. It is expected that Zach McAllister will be recalled to pitch Tuesday in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)