On another night — perhaps one with milder winds or balmier temperatures — the Indians might have trounced the Tigers by half a dozen. Any night when Corey Kluber pitches as effectively as he did tonight, though, the scoreline for the Indians’ opponent will always be the same: nil.
Kluber struck out thirteen in eight innings of work tonight, earning his first win of the season. Temperatures only slightly warmer than freezing did nothing to stifle the ace’s stuff. The Tigers only managed to create three baserunners against him the entire game; none of these advanced to second base. That level of dominance is something we’ve almost come to expect from Kluber starts. It’s a little terrifying. Through three games, the starter has logged 23 innings, striking out 27 and conceding only four runs. If we’re being honest, those runs came on what feel like the only two bad pitches Kluber made all season. One became a home run off of the bat of Nelson Cruz; the other, a dinger for Shohei Ohtani.
It would be extraordinary for Kluber to continue pitching at this level for more than a couple dozen innings. Based on his performance after returning from injury last season, though, maybe we’re just seeing what a fully healthy Kluber is capable of in April.
While the Indians owe the win to Kluber, the runs that made it possible came from the bats of Bradley Zimmer and Yan Gomes. With two out in the bottom of the fifth, Gomes singled to left. Tigers starter Francisco Liriano then attacked Zimmer with three consecutive sliders. Liriano lives by his slider, but based on the location of this one I have a feeling he knew where it was going to land as soon as it left his fingers.
To Zimmer’s credit, he did exactly what you should do when you see the same pitch for the third time and it happens to be pretty much in the dead center of the strike zone.
Those two runs would be the only ones the Indians needed tonight. Am I excited that Kluber continues to dominate in ways that feel vaguely unfair? Yes. Am I glad to see the Indians claw back to .500 with timely hitting over the last couple of days? Absolutely. Do I want to see the Indians offensive output increase rapidly, along with the temperatures in the midwest? I’m pretty much the warm temperature fan from that old Weather Channel commercial at this point. I don’t want to see a shade of blue on that damn map anywhere.
That being said, the best pitcher in the American League continues to get better, and I’m not going to sit here and complain about something else while its happening. Kluber is appointment viewing at this point, and I hope that the rest of the league is just as excited by what he’s doing on days when they aren’t standing in the batter’s box against him.
Corey Kluber, 3 Pitch Sequence.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 9, 2018
First two are Two Seamers off the plate/balls, but see how it sets up the Cutter.
So, when you yell: WHY ARE YOU SWINGING AT THAT?
That's why. pic.twitter.com/6Ykd2AawVZ