I am, without a doubt, one of Corey Kluber’s biggest fans. Period. Nearly three years ago – and at a time when he had an ERA above 5.00 in his six big league starts – I wrote a piece for a buddy’s website entitled, Corey Kluber Has Long-Term Potential. Then there’s this piece, Corey Kluber’s Way Better Than You Think, that I wrote for IPL on June 12th, 2013. And, finally, the one I did for ESPN – Corey Kluber Can Take Another Step Forward – as he marched toward his first Cy Young Award last season.
I am, unabashedly, a fanatic of Kluber. It is a joy – as well as a thrill – to watch him carve up opposing lineups with such ease. There’s a moment, which I’m paraphrasing, in the movie Little Big League when Billy’s grandpa, who owns the Minnesota Twins, talks about seeing an All-Time great starting pitcher throw a game and how special it was. That’s the feeling I get watching Kluber pitch. And he did just that against the Mariners on Thursday night.
Kluber, a fourth round pick who, through hard work, transformed himself into arguably the best pitcher on the planet, punched out 13 hitters in seven innings. And for those keeping track that’s an absolutely ridiculous, mindboggling, otherworldly 50 strikeouts in his last 32 innings pitched. He’s averaging a little more than 14 punch outs every nine innings over that span. That’s what dominant relievers do in one-inning stints, not starting pitchers.
Kluber got roughed up a bit last night – at least in terms of his usual production – as Seattle scratched out seven hits including two homeruns, a solo shot by backstop Mike Zunino in the third inning and a two-run dinger by Dustin Ackley in the sixth.
Cleveland’s lineup has been red hot as of late, a trend that continued Thursday night.
The Tribe’s offense got to Mariners’ starting pitcher James Paxton early and often before a reported finger injury forced the young hurler to depart midway through an at bat against Brandon Moss in the fifth inning.
Jason Kipnis knocked out another two hits as he raised his triple-slash line to a remarkable .345/.416/.536. Michael Brantley continued to be Dr. Smooth, adding another two hits. And both Moss and light-hitting Jose Ramirez added two hits apiece.
The Indians pushed their record to 8-and-2 over the club’s last 10 games, and now stand 22-and-25 on the season. And Tuesday night’s win pushed their run differential on the season to +1. It seems – fingers crossed – that they’re on the track Sports Illustrated (infamously) predicted heading into the season.