In all reality, Corey Kluber is still probably “just a guy.” In his brief major league career, he had pretty much been the definition of a replacement level pitcher, and he never dominated in the minors, striking out a hitter per inning, but also allowing a hit per inning and 3.6 walks per nine innings. Not that there is zero value in being a AAA starter/swingman for length in the pen/spot starter who can get some strikeouts. But in Sunday’s nightcap, in a game the Indians really needed (as much as you can really need a game in April), he wasn’t just a guy. He was the guy.
He mixed his pitches well and kept hitters off balance, got away with some mistakes up in the zone early that Kansas City couldn’t take advantage of and pounded the strike zone with fastballs in the 92-94 range. He ended the night setting down the final 10 Royals he faced. All night long he did what pitchers are supposed to do with a lead, what you wish most of them would do every night, he went right after Kansas City with his best stuff and let the chips fall where they might. He threw 97 pitches, an outstanding 65 for strikes, striking out six and walking none. Kluber, in all likelihood, has earned himself another turn or two in the rotation
Given the shape this rotation is in, being “just a guy,” is probably good enough to stick and actually be useful. If he can give the Indians five or six each time out and at least keep them in the game, Kluber offers the Indians a legitimate option if Myers is out for most of the season or Ubaldo continues to be … well Ubaldo. That would also allow the Indians to stick to the plan and not rush Trevor Bauer up. If I’m wrong and Kluber is actually turning into a solid third or fourth starter type, that would be the type of break the Indians really need to catch.
As for the offense, they finally made their weekly appearance, helped in no small part by the Royals, who broke out their Bad News Bears impression in the nightcap, whatever the official scorer decided on some of those “hits.” They scored 10 runs, but only six were earned and it probably should have been less than that. Not that I’m complaining, the Royals offered the Indians extra outs and they took advantage. Including Mike Aviles, who only went 1-4 but it was a big one, a three run homer that broke it open early. All total, Aviles torched his former team for five RBIs, and given some of the Indians atrocious situational hitting all year, it was great to see someone deliver productive, run scoring outs instead of inning ending double plays.
But Sunday’s doubleheader was the perfect mirror for the season offensively, complete feast or famine. The Indians have been shutout three times, including once Sunday, and have scored 10 or more runs three times, including once Sunday. They have to find some consistency on both the mound and the batters box, or the ups and downs of April aren’t going to abate.
* Good day overall for Asdrubal Cabrera, who went 5-9 on the day and has his batting average over .200. Finally.
* I love that Carlos Santana gets credit for a stolen base on that crazy play in the seventh. It’s been a long time since I played little league, but I can’t ever remember a rundown drill looking like that.
* The bullpen is in good shape heading into Ubaldo’s start Monday. (It’s sad that has to be a consideration every time out). It’s not often you can bring in the bullpen stars like Pestano and Perez just to get some work in during a doubleheader. Credit to Kluber and Justin Masterson for each pitching into the seventh.
* Fun with small sample size: Yan Gomes — Triples machine. He is averaging a triple every 12 at bats (2 in 24 at bats). Just for fun, the record for triples by an Indian catcher in a season: Ted Easterly with 10 in 1909.
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