Covering the Bases: Game 93

712KluberFinal: Indians 3, Royals 0

FIRST: Cool Corey Kluber has received two consecutive standing ovations from the Progressive Field faithful. He walked off to rousing cheers after his outing against the Tigers on Sunday and he did so again on Friday night after blanking the Royals.

As Kluber walked to the dugout in the eighth inning, the cheers grew louder and the young pitcher kept his composure. No smile, hat tip or wave. Just another trip back to the bench to watch the bullpen attempt to nail down the victory.

“He’s a pretty composed kid,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Cool, calm and collected. That describes Kluber in the clubhouse (Klubhouse?) and lately it sums up his performance on the mound. The best example on Friday came in the fifth inning, when Kansas City loaded the bases with one out for Alex Gordon.

Sound familiar?

Three outings ago, Kluber slipped into a bases-loaded jam with one out in the fifth inning for Gordon, and then fell behind the batter, 3-0. The next pitch, which everyone figured would be a fastball, was promptly placed over the wall for a grand slam. Kluber had that experience in mind this time around after working ahead, 2-0, and then throwing three balls to run the count full.

“I had a pretty good idea he was looking for a fastball away,” Kluber explained, “because that’s pretty much what we had stuck with to that point. So, my thinking is kind of, ‘If I can throw the curveball for a strike, great, but make it look like a fastball so he might recognize that early.’ I guess, I learned from the last time I faced him with the bases loaded.”

Kluber spun an 84-mph curve, which Gordon swung through for a strikeout. Eric Hosmer followed by beating a 2-2 curve into the ground for an inning-ending out, which Kluber retired himself with a scoop of the grounder and a sprint to first base. Overall, Kluber logged 7.2 innings, during which he allowed no runs on three hits with eight strikeouts and three walks.

Over his past dozen starts, Kluber has gone 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA (16th among American League starters in that span), a 1.16 WHIP (tied-16th), a 4.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio (10th), 9.17 strikeouts per nine innings (seventh), 74 strikeouts (fifth), 16 walks and 72.2 innings (tied-sixth).

Considering one of the stats I posted in my previous entry on Kluber, I looked to see how many sinkers he logged, according to the PitchFX data. Naturally, he hit the magic 48 on the nose. So, to update my stat from the last post, Kluber is now 4-2 with a 2.49 in nine starts featuring 48 or more sinkers, and he’s 2-3 with a 7.76 ERA in the five starts with fewer than 48 sinkers. That excludes his relief and rain-shortened games.

SECOND: Kluber got all the support he needed when the Indians pieced together a three-run rally in the seventh inning (after Royals lefty Bruce Chen bowed out following six shutout innings of one-hit ball). Cleveland had five straight hits, including a two-run, pinch-hit double from Michael Bourn.

Within the rally was a stunning contribution from Mark Reynolds.

With runners on first and second base with no outs, Reynolds squared up at the last second and bunted a pitch from reliever Aaron Crow. It was perfectly placed to the left of the mound and bounced into no-man’s land. Reynolds reached with an unlikely infield single to set the stage for Bourn.

When did Reynolds think to bunt?

“Right as he was in his wind-up,” Reynolds said. “I was thinking about it. I was like, ‘What the heck? I’ll try it.’ And then it worked out for me. I just wanted to do something positive. I figured worst case, I get the guys to second and third and we get the chance to score some more runs.”

Reynolds said it felt good to come through like that given his recent struggles. When he stepped up to the plate for that at-bat, he was mired in droughts of 2-for-35 (.057), 14-for-89 (.157), 23-for-143 (.161), 32-for-189 (.169) and 37-for-210 (.176). That last sample dates back to May 4. Reynolds might be the Tribesman in most need of the All-Star break.

THIRD: With closer Chris Perez unavailable due to his recent work load, Cody Allen got the nod with a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning. Sidearmer Joe Smith escaped a one-on, two-out jam with one pitch in the eighth that created a groundout from Billy Butler. Allen notched the save after escaping a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the ninth.

Between the two hits and one walk he allowed, Allen struck out the side in his second save of the season. That upped his first-half total to 52 strikeouts in just 39.2 innings. That puts Allen in some rare company in terms of first-half performances by Indians relievers.

Most strikeouts in a first half by an Indians reliever since 1916
1. Sid Monge (1979): 64 in 76 innings (7.6 K/9)
2. Paul Shuey (2001): 57 in 41 innings (12.5 K/9)
3. Jim Kern (1977): 54 in 57.2  innings (8.4 K/9)
4. Don McMahon (1964): 53 in 48.1 innings (9.9 K/9)
5. Cody Allen (2013): 52 in 39.2 innings (11.8 K/9)
5. Steve Karsat (1999): 52 in 54.2 innings (8.6 K/9)
5. Eric Plunk (1994): 52 in 53.1 innings (8.8 K/9)

Best K/9 rate by Indians an reliever in a first half since 1916 (min. 15 innings)
1. Vinnie Pestano (2011): 12.7
2. Ed Glynn (1982): 12.6
3. Paul Shuey (2001): 12.5
4. David Riske (2002): 12.0
5. Cody Allen (2013): 11.8

HOME: The Indians kept Kansas City off the scoreboard to chalk up their American League-leading 12th shutout of the first half. The dozen blanks are the most in an entire season for the Tribe since the club had 13 in 2008. Only the Pirates (13) currently have more than the Indians this season. Cleveland’s 12 shutouts are the most for the team in a first half since collecting 17 shutouts prior to the All-Star break in 1968. Only that ’68 squad and the 1948 Indians (13) had more in a first half in team history, dating back to the first All-Star Game in 1933. Nine of Cleveland shutouts have come at home, marking the most home shutouts in the Majors this season. It’s the most at home in a season since the Indians had 10 in the entire 2006 campaign.

ON DECK:

Royals (43-47) at Indians (49-44)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Progressive Field

–JB

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