Luis Severino has a lot going for him. The 23-year-old All-Star is third in the American League in ERA (3.10), third in WHIP (1.104), fourth in strikeouts and strikeout rate (183 total/10.51 per nine) and top ten in hit rate, walk rate and total innings pitched.
He can even hit 100 mph, as he did on this four-seamer to end the top of the third.
In fact, per Fangraphs, his average fastball velocity of 97.4 is highest of all qualified MLB starters. Even if you’ve heard relatively little about him given he’s a stud pitcher on the Yankees, it’s clear to say he’s been one of the five best pitchers in the league in 2017.
But tonight the Indians made him pay for a few mistakes around the plate, and Corey Kluber took care of the rest on the way to a 6-2 victory in the series opener at Yankee Stadium.
Jose Ramirez was all over the place tonight, bouncing out of a powerless slump since the All-Star break. His first inning home run staked Kluber to a 1-0 lead and with Kluber lately, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the solo run may be enough. It wasn’t, but it didn’t matter.
Kluber gave one back on a third inning home run to Chase Headley, snapping Headley’s career 0-11 drought against the Indians’ ace. It also snapped the 30 inning scoreless streak from the entire pitching staff, the longest of any team in baseball this year, per MLB.com The Yankees struck again in the fifth when Todd Frazier singled home a run, but that was it against Kluber and the Indians’ offense would not have a scoreless frame for the rest of the night.
Ramirez was back at it in the sixth with a towering shot into the second deck in right field. 2-2.
Carlos Santana was next with his own second deck shot off Severino in the seventh. 3-2.
A Bradley Zimmer single chased Severino, and Zimmer used his wheels to steal second base (his 17th of the year), go to third on a missed catch on the play at second, and then scamper home on a wild pitch. 4-2.
If that felt like the ballgame, I’d be tempted to agree with you. Kluber has just been that good since his return. How good? Beat writer Jordan Bastian was at it right after the game with the data:
Updated Kluber since June 1:
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 29, 2017
Those are some exciting numbers.
But they weren’t done. Austin Jackson hit his sixth home run in the top of the eighth and then Bradley Zimmer and Carlos Santana teamed up in the ninth to make it 6-2, and that’s your final. The Indians win their fifth in a row.
This stretch run is starting to feel similar to last year where the Tribe went from “do you think they’ll win the division” to “hey wait, they’re pushing for the best record in the league”. If it seemed like Houston ran away and hid with their hot start this season, you may be surprised to find that the Indians have only five fewer wins than the Astros right now.
Or in other words, the Indians are closer to the best record in the American League than they are to the second best team in the AL Central.