Tribe improves to 81-74
I feel like I'm out of superlatives for Corey Kluber, so excuse me if I seem to be repeating myself...
For his second start in a row, Kluber struck out 14 batters Sunday afternoon. How many pitchers have ever had back-to-back starts with 14+ Ks? Kluber is just the 9th ever. Here are the previous eight: Sam McDowell, Bob Gibson, Mickey Lolich, Dwight Gooden, Jose Rijo, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez. Good company.
Kluber is now up to 258 strikeouts on the season, which leads the Majors, and puts him 9th all time in franchise history. During those two starts, Kluber also had a streak of 13 consecutive innings with at least two strikeouts. I have no idea what the record is for that sort of thing, but there can't have been many guys who've matched that stretch.
Kluber went 8 innings, giving up just 2 runs on 7 hits and 1 walk. His ERA is now at 2.53, and he's one of two viable options for AL Cy Young voters. (Felix Hernandez is the other, and given his far stronger name recognition, he should be considered a heavy favorite to win the award, but Kluber has pitched a couple more innings and has stronger peripherals, leading to a better FIP and higher WAR over at FanGraphs.
A top two finish in Cy Young voting and a spot somewhere in the top ten for the MVP, even the most optimistic of Tribe fans would've had a hard time believing Kluber would be this good.
Speaking of guys who belong in the top ten in AL MVP voting, Michael Brantley picked up another 3 hits, giving him 193 for the season. He's now 7 hits away from becoming the Tribe's first 200-hit man since Kenny Lofton in 1996. If he gets there, he'd also join Joe Carter as the only players in franchise history with 200 hits, 20 home runs, and 20 stolen bases. He also drove in another couple runs today, giving him 97 RBI. So many pretty round numbers...
Michael Bourn also had 3 hits, while Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana each had 2. Santana also walked twice, bringing his MLB-leading season total to 108. Santana now has 389 walks since the start of the 2011 season, which is the most of any player in baseball.
The Indians have now scored 7 runs in back-to-back games. Given the way recent weeks have gone, that feels like an explosion of offense. In the last month the Tribe hadn't scored more than 4 runs in consecutive games, and the last time they scored 7+ twice in a row was July 10th and 11th.
Elsewhere around the American League, the Royals kept their thin division title hopes alive by beating Detroit. That means the Tribe remain 3.5 games back of Kansas City. The two teams have four games left against one another though (including the suspended game the Indians are leading 4-2), so they can make up that ground without help from anyone else. Oakland is tied with KC at the moment (and tied 4-4 in the 5th inning of their game this afternoon). Seattle lost, which allows the Indians to move within 2 games of them. In addition to beating out the Royals, the Tribe will have to catch one of those teams from the West.
The Indians now return home to face Kansas City for 3.1 games, and then to host Tampa Bay to close out their schedule.
The playoff chances are very slim, but they're a lot more plump than they were Saturday morning.
Win Expectancy Chart:
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