Back at the end of May, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about how Indians fans were haunted by the ghosts of closers past. Maybe there’s just something about the combination of an Indians uniform and the ninth inning that brings out the insanity. Cody Allen hadn’t allowed an earned run in his prior four appearances, dating back to July 4 (oddly enough, against the Royals). In fact, in those four scoreless appearances, he’d only allowed two hits and one walk combined; tonight in the ninth inning alone he allowed two hits and a walk. Despite the fact that the tying run was on base at one point, and Indians fans likely felt a significant blood pressure spike, Allen still managed to get the save without any damage. The Indians’ 3-0 victory over the Royals was their American League-leading twelfth shutout of the year (they’re second in the majors behind the Pirates). The Tribe had just six shutouts all of last year, second to last in the majors. It’s not quite the All-Star break yet, and the Indians have already doubled their shutout total from last year. (At the bottom, I’ll list some additional details about the shutouts)
A big part of shutout number 12 was the incredible pitching performance by Corey Kluber. He pitched 7 2/3 innings, giving up just three hits and walking three, while striking out eight. I have to admit that earlier this season when Zach McAllister was injured, I groaned when I saw that Kluber got the call-up to take his spot. I had never been that impressed by him, and for some reason I just never trusted him when he was in a game. I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve been happier to be wrong, because he’s certainly been impressive so far this season. Kluber even managed to weasel out of a lead-off triple in the fifth inning, a situation that eventually devolved into a bases-loaded, one out situation. He escaped without damage and was locked in a duel with Bruce Chen until the seventh inning. At first I was a bit surprised that Ned Yost chose to pull Chen when he had allowed just one hit – a Carlos Santana double – at that point in the game. I’d completely forgotten that Chen had pitched exclusively out of the bullpen so far this season; it was obvious that they didn’t want to stretch his pitch count beyond 100.
Once Yost pulled Chen and went to Tim Collins, the Indians’ offense pounced. After Collins allowed back-to-back singles to Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher, Yost went back to the bullpen for Aaron Crow. A Carlos Santana single plated the first run for the Tribe, and then Mark Reynolds bunt singled to load the bases. Since Reynolds struck out in his other three at-bats today, it was probably the only way he was going to make it on base at this point. We all knew that he was going to strike out a lot when the Indians signed him; plus he’s a very streaky player that can run very hot, and very cold. However, he’s on pace to smash his strikeout total from last year with the Orioles. Tonight’s game saw strikeouts 111, 112, and 113; last year Reynolds struck out 159 times all season. That was actually one of his best years as far as strikeouts were concerned – he struck out 223 times with Arizona in 2009. Michael Bourn doubled in the last two runs that inning, leaving Kluber and the bullpen with a 3-0 lead with which to work.
The last game I wrote about was a little over a week ago on July 4, also against the Royals. I was lamenting the collapse of the bullpen, and the fact that the Indians starters were making early exits from the games. Even though Allen made it interesting tonight, he got the job done. Joe Smith, after a rough night on Wednesday, needed just one pitch to get the final out in the eighth inning. Because of Kluber’s fantastic start, the bullpen didn’t even need to pitch that much tonight. The Royals have been heating up lately, particularly their offense. It feels good to shut them down and get a win, particularly since the Indians didn’t even have many opportunities on the base paths tonight. They made the most of what they had, and they were rewarded with their 49th win and 12th shutout.
Some additional shutout facts:
- Nine of the 12 shutouts have come at Progressive Field.
- There are three teams the Indians have shut out twice so far this season, once at home and once on the road – the Rays, the White Sox, and now the Royals.
- The other six teams the Indians shut out – the Phillies, Athletics, Yankees, Mariners, Nationals, and Blue Jays.
- Justin Masterson was the starter in five of the shutouts, Ubaldo Jimenez was the starter in three of them, Kluber in two of them, and Zach McAllister and Trevor Bauer each started in one.
- Three of the shutouts were complete games by Masterson.
- Joe Smith appeared in five of the shutouts, Cody Allen in four of them, Vinnie Pestano and Rich Hill in three of them, Chris Perez in two of them, and Nick Hagadone and Bryan Shaw each appeared in one.
List of the shutouts:
April 7 at Tampa Bay – Indians win 13-0 – Pitchers: Justin Masterson, Joe Smith, and Vinnie Pestano
April 12 vs. the White Sox – Indians win 1-0 – Pitcher: Justin Masterson
April 29 at Kansas City – Indians win 9-0 – Pitchers: Ubaldo Jimenez, Nick Hagadone, and Cody Allen
May 1 vs. Philadelphia – Indians win 6-0 – Pitchers: Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw, Rich Hill, Joe Smith, and Cody Allen
May 7 vs. Oakland – Indians win 1-0 – Pitchers: Zach McAllister, Rich Hill, and Chris Perez
May 13 vs. Yankees – Indians win 1-0 – Pitcher: Justin Masterson
May 19 vs. Seattle – Indians win 6-0 – Pitchers: Justin Masterson, Rich Hill, and Joe Smith
June 1 vs. Tampa Bay – Indians win 5-0 – Pitchers: Ubaldo Jimenez, and Vinnie Pestano
June 16 vs. Washington – Indians win 2-0 – Pitchers: Corey Kluber, and Vinnie Pestano
June 30 at White Sox – Indians win 4-0 – Pitcher: Justin Masterson
July 9 vs. Toronto – Indians win 3-0 – Pitchers: Ubaldo Jimenez, Cody Allen, Joe Smith, and Chris Perez
July 12 vs. Kansas City – Indians win 3-0 – Pitchers: Corey Kluber, Joe Smith, and Cody Allen