Coming off a rough home series against the Twins and the Tigers now only 2 games back, the Tribe now faces a Yankees team that, while underachieving, should never be taken for granted due to their immense talent (payroll). With the Yankees proving that the night before, blowing up Tomlin in game one, the Indians looked to regain that edge on a rare Saturday 1 o’clock start.
Two Cleveland greats and Cy Young award winners faced off on the mound today. Corey Kluber (10-8, 3.27 ERA), the Tribe’s ace on the hill, has had his ups and downs, but still remains one of the league’s top throwers, going deep into ball games when he’s on. A big proving game for Kluber, as the Indians starters have been giving up big leads early, looking extremely poor. Once Indians’ ace CC Sabathia (6-9,4.18 ERA ) has had a turn around year despite being on a short leash due to off the field issues. He has now placed himself, the Indians, and the Yankees in the record books recording 100+ wins with 2 teams; 1 of 8 players to join the likes of Randy Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Nolan Ryan. He also is 5th in all-time strikeouts for lefty’s.
UNINTERESTED FAN BRIEF SPOILER: The Indians, after going down early, battled back to win 5-2, showcasing another great Kluber start, and another homerun party at Napoli’s.
The first few innings foreshadowed the demise of the 2016 August Indians to the naked eye. Kluber seemed to struggle in the 2nd, but a seasoned Yankees squad can fool the average spectator. With one out, the Indians’ ace had Yankees 2nd baseman Starlin Castro fooled, reaching out for contact, but Castro ended up taking 1st with a broken bat bloop in front of newly acquired outfielder Brandon Guyer. With Kluber disappointed (as any pitcher is) giving away a single on a blind poke, he bounced back striking out Didi Gregorious. Against many inexperienced or average teams, Corey Kluber has proven to get out of any of these situations; however, Corey’s command seemed to wane, giving up a long single to Gabe Sanchez, scoring Castro, then giving up another single placing runners at 1st and 3rd. A passed ball brought in the second run, but the inning was cleaned up by a grounder to sure-handed, Franciso Lindor.
Why this inning seemed so scary was not only due to the horrendous starting pitching of the Indians of late, but the fact that the Tribe’s Cy Young ace continued to miss spots and paid for it. Kluber had been previously fooling with the outside corner, mixing his slider and fastball to either paint the corner, or make batters chase outside. When the command faded in the 2nd, 2 pitches set up outside fell into the zone for two singles, and one was so off it surprised catcher Roberto Perez for a passed ball. In other words, Kluber may have had every bad pitch taken advantage of, but he’s lucky none of his misses left a ball in the homerun wind tunnel the stripe’s call “right field”.
This frustrating inning thankfully came early for the Tribe, and they quickly jumped on the ex-Indian in pinstripes. Sabathia completely fooled his opposing lineup the first time around using great off-speed pitching, just like Sonny Gray for the A’s a week before. However, the party started on the second go around in the 4th with a solo-shot by Jason Kipnis (#19), then hits began to pour in until the inning was ended by a double play, but CC’s trouble continued into the 5th when Rajai Davis drove in run after a hit batter. With Sabathia escaping two embarrassing innings with only 2 runs, he was kept in for the 6th. With 1 gone in the 6th, a 3-0 pitch to Mike Napoli was wrongfully called a strike, but ended up being a gift as next pitch he placed a solo homerun (#28) to the shallow right field stands. After 2 more at-bats, Sabathia’s day ended at 5 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 4 walks, and 5 SO’s.
With the momentum largely pointing towards the Indians, Rajai Davis gifted another insurance run in the 7th with a 1 run shot (#10) to make the game 4-2, later extended to 5-2. Corey Kluber continued to dominate despite his rocky 2nd, and left the game after 8 innings, giving up only 5 hits, 1 walk, and dealing 8 K’s. His gem was capped off by another great acquisition, Andrew Miller, who struck out 2 in the 9th.
All in all, the Indians showed the resilience after being down early that makes the difference between the average teams, and the first place team they currently are. While August has been another speed bump in the schedule, they continue to spread the deep balls throughout the order, and prove they can string hits together, although they could not capitalize on those runs today. A long month continues when the tribe plays tomorrow (8/7) at 1:05 pm to finish out the split series against the Yankees, followed by a much-needed day off as the Indians wont have another off until September 1st, starting off the 3 week string against a serious Nationals team.