The last couple days I ran through the Tribe's top hitting performances of the first half. You can find Part I of that countdown here, and Part 2 of it here. Today I wanted to look at the top pitching performances of the season so far.
The thing is, there's an easy #1, and there are a bunch of Kluber games you could place somewhere on the list, but in trying to rank them all, it felt like splitting hairs (again, this would be ranking them after the #1 choice, which is easy and fairly indisputable, I think).
So, instead of ranking a top five or top ten, I'm going to single out one game from each guy who's started for the Indians in 2014, working my way towards that top game I keep referencing:
Carlos Carrasco (April 25 vs. Giants) - 6 strikeouts in 6 innings, with 4 runs allowed on 5 hits (including a home run) and a walk. This was not a good game, but it's the best of Carrasco's four starts this season.
T.J. House (May 28 vs. White Sox) - 8 strikeouts in 6.1 innings, with 1 run allowed on 5 singles and a walk
Danny Salazar (April 27 vs. Giants) - 8 strikeouts in 7 innings, with 1 run allowed on 5 hits and only 1 walk. He didn't even allow any home runs!
Trevor Bauer (July 13 vs. White Sox) - 10 strikeouts in 6.2 shutout innings, with 8 hits and 3 walks
Justin Masterson (June 2 vs. Red Sox) - 10 strikeouts in 7 shutout innings, with 3 singles and 4 walks
Zach McAllister (April 9 vs. Padres) - 7 strikeouts in 7.2 shutout innings, with 5 hits and 0 walks
Corey Kluber (April 24 vs. Royals) - A lot of good ones to choose from, but I think the Klubot's best was this one, in which he struck out 11 in a complete game win, allowing only 4 singles and an unearned run
Josh Tomlin (June 28 vs. Mariners) - Tomlin struck out 11, didn't walk anyone, and allowed only one hit all game. Kyle Seager led off the 5th inning with a single, and that was the only thing keeping Tomlin from a no-hitter and a perfect game
Okay, so that's easily the best game by a Tribe pitcher this season (it's the best game by any American League pitcher this season). What do we have to do to find some competition for it? How far back do we have to go?
Best Tribe pitching performances since Barker:
There have been 14 no-hitters in franchise history, including two perfect games. The most recent of those no-hitters was also the second of those perfect games, and it thrown by Len Barker on May 15, 1981. Barker struck out 11 in that game, and I'm comfortable calling it the best game by a Tribe pitcher in my lifetime. That was 33 years ago now though. Since then, who's Tomlin's competition?
Different people will be drawn to different things when picking out what they find to be the best games, so I've tried to choose games for a variety of tastes. Here they are, in chronological order:
Ken Schrom (May 10, 1986)
In a 4-0 win at home against the White Sox, Schrom didn't allow any runs; he struck out 7 while allowing 6 hits and 0 walks. That line is good, but maybe doesn't seem especially impressive. What makes this one stand out though, is that Schrom pitched 10 innings. Game Score: 87
Tom Candiotti (August 3, 1987)
In a 2-0 win at home against the Yankees, Candiotti pitched a complete game shutout while striking out 5 and allowing only a single and a walk. Neither base runner got as far as second base. You may recall that 1987 was a monster season for offense, and New York had a solid lineup, which adds to the quality of the performance. Game Score: 89
Charles Nagy (June 12, 1992)
In a 3-0 win at home against the Yankees, Nagy pitched a complete game shutout. He struck out 5 while allowing 5 hits, all singles, and he didn't walk anyone. What lands it on this list is the fact that he needed only 90 pitches to do it (making it a Maddux), which is the fewest ever in a shutout by an Indians pitcher. Game Score: 82
Bartolo Colon (September 18, 2000)
In a 2-0 win against the Yankees in New York, Colon pitched a complete game shutout, striking out 13 while allowing only a single and a walk. That's the most strikeouts by a Tribe pitcher in shutout during the 33 years included here. Given that those Yankees scored 5.4 runs a game and were a few weeks away from winning their third World Series in a row, Colon's performance is especially impressive. Game Score: 97
Billy Traber (July 8, 2003)
In a 4-0 win at home against the Yankees, Traber came as close to pitching a perfect game as any Indian since Barker did it, giving up only a single that led off the 3rd inning, and then retiring the final 20 batters he faced, finishing with 5 strikeouts. Those Yankees scored 5.4 runs a game, so this is another one where the opponent really adds to thing.
It really wasn't my intention to choose four wins against the Yankees, but it turns out a lot of the Tribe's best games have come against them (22-0!). I think Colon's game edges out Tomlin's for the best by an Indians pitcher since Barker's perfect game in 1981, because while he did issue that one free pass, he also recorded two additional strikeouts and did it in a much tougher environment for a pitcher. Tomlin's game would be next though, which still makes it the best performance by any pitcher on the team in 14 years, and the second best in 33.