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Corey Kluber’s outstanding start goes for naught, Indians implode late

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Hello .500 my old friend

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Cleveland Indians
Oops.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Kluber struck out his 1000th batter tonight. He became the fastest Cleveland pitcher to do so, and became of the fastest to that milestone in MLB history, joining such strikeout luminaries as Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden, and Hideo Nomo by doing it in fewer than 150 appearances. That record was part of an outstanding outing by Kluber, who finished his seven innings of work with a flourish, striking out five out of the last seven batters he faced. This was not a case of a pitcher leaving before the other batters got wise to his pitches, this was a game in which the batters understood fully what Kluber was throwing, but powerless to do much about it. Kluber allowed four hits, two of them infield hits, striking out 10 batters while walking one.

My description of Kluber’s late-inning pitches don’t really do them justice, so if you can, watch this sequence of pitches to Logan Forsythe in the seventh inning, the third time he faced him:

Pitch 1: 83 mph curve (called strike) - on the inside corner

Pitch 2: 94 mph fastball (called strike) - on the outside corner

Pitch 3: 84 mph curve (swing strike) - started on the outside corner, ended up in Euclid

Kluber walked off the mound trailing 2-1, though those two runs weren’t exactly his doing. The first one scored on a dribbler up the third base line. Then came an infield hit, and then the Dodgers pulled off a double steal, a play that worked because the runner at first (Joc Peterson) stopped after Yan Gomes released the ball. Had Peterson kept running, he probably gets tagged out before Yasiel Puig touches home plate.

Jose Ramirez would make sure that Kluber at the very least wouldn’t be tagged with the loss, jumping on a Josh Fields fastball and lacing it over the right field fence. Lonnie Chisenhall would later just miss putting the Indians in front when his drive sliced just inches in front of the foul pole in right. That would be as close as the Indians would get to winning this game.

I was a bit surprised when Andrew Miller jogged out of the bullpen in the eighth inning. And yes, I understand that Miller is always going to be primary choice in a close and late situation. And a tie game in the eighth is about as close and late as you can get. But Miller had thrown a lot of pitches the previous evening, and that included a key home run. I thought that Francona would try to get by with someone else, especially with a day game tomorrow. It might have worked out, if not for a couple things:

  • Enrique Hernandez hit an outside fastball over the fence.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around how that ball left the yard. Miller’s pitch was up, yes, but up and outside the strike zone. It probably would have been called a ball. But Hernandez must have been sitting on the pitch, and he just hit out of the reach of Lonnie Chisenhall in right field.

  • Erik Gonzalez made a colossal blunder by stepping off second base before catching Francisco Lindor’s toss. A run scored on the play, and then two more on a single.

This is where I expect most Tribe fans lost it. Heck, it’s where I lost it.

As a baseball fan, it’s tempting to sometimes just throw up your hands and scream into the void. Especially after a game like this. A fantastic pitching performance by Corey Kluber tossed aside by a home run that I still can’t comprehend and one of the bigger mental errors you’ll see on a major-league diamond this year. How can thoughts and words compete with pure anguish upon seeing the Dodgers gleefully capitalize on the double play that wasn’t turned.* The fanatic is always lurking underneath the surface of the cool, rational baseball thinker, and as much as you’d like to argue it away, it remains there, waiting for that moment of weakness to occur. And it’s never really that one play or even series of plays, it’s just that last bit of pressure that releases the pool of rage that had been building all season. So you let the anger out, revel it in, wallow in some nihilism for good measure, then return to your regular calm and collected self. At least that’s the idea.

The Indians almost clawed back from this oblivion, scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth, and brought the tying run to the plate, but Lonnie Chisenhall flew out to end the threat, and the Dodgers’ untouchable reliever (Kenley Jansen) was as advertised. Of course, he didn’t get to face Bradley Zimmer, as Daniel Robertson had already pinch-hit for him in the eighth. Sigh.

With the loss, the Indians fall to .500, which is not a fun place to be, even in this year’s AL Central. Let’s hope that this is the bottom, or else the void is going to get tired of the screaming.

*One of baseball’s scoring dictums is that “you can never assume a double play.” Well, in this instance, the double play was actually turned with ease (as in the players started to jog off the field), except for the fact the review showed Erik Gonzalez just didn’t keep his foot on second base. There was no danger of the runner creeping up on him, and the “neighborhood play” doesn’t exist any longer. If ever there was an instance of scoring an error on a double play that wasn’t turned, it would be this play.