Corey Kluber cruised along for the first four innings on Friday night in the opening of a three-game series against the Phillies in Philadelphia. He wasn’t ridiculously strong–no striking out the side or anything dramatic. However, with the exception of a single to Ryan Howard, he managed to get the Phillies to fly out or ground out along with a handful of strike outs. Things looked pretty good.
Kluber has famously been the recipient of the lowest run support in the majors. In 2015, he was 36th among 36 AL starters in Run Support Average (3.32 runs per start). So far in 2016, he’s averaging 2.60 runs per start. So maybe it isn’t surprising that when he came up to bat with two outs in the 5th inning, he didn’t go quietly the way most AL pitchers do when forced to bat during interleague play. Instead, Kluber hit a solid line drive that he managed to turn into a double (with a little aggressive base running). Rajai Davis singled to allow Kluber to score the first run of the game. Jason Kipnis followed with a home run, and suddenly the Indians were up 3-0 and Corey Kluber was the Rally Man.
The problem with being Corey Kluber is that you’re generally quite effective. So effective, in fact, that sometimes you’re so jacked up from getting your own team’s rally going that you start out the bottom of the 5th inning by giving up a pair of doubles to Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, which made the score 3-1. A fielding error by Mike Napoli and a single by David Lough tied things up at 3-3. That’s where the score remained for six more innings. Yes, five plus six does equal 11, as in, the game went into extra innings.
There were a couple of moments when it looked like the Phillies would shut things down. With two outs in the 8th, reliever Bryan Shaw gave up a single to Odubel Herrera that could have sparked another rally. Instead, Shaw stamped out that notion by picking Herrara off at first to end the inning. In the bottom of the 10th, closer Cody Allen somehow managed to get himself out of a one-out, bases loaded dilemma by striking out Freddy Galvis and then getting Mikel Franco to ground out. For an entire commercial break and the time it took Lindor, Brantley, and Napoli to ground out, line out, and strike out respectively, Cleveland fans held out hope that the Indians could make it through another inning. Then Cody Allen faced Philly first baseman Ryan Howard in the bottom of the 11th. With a 3-2 count, Howard slammed a line drive over the fence in right-center. And just like that, the Phillies walked off with a 4-3 win.