CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Corey Kluber may only pitch every five days, but his impact with the Cleveland Indians extends far beyond the box score.
Oh, and he’s pretty good there too.
The Tribe’s ace held the Reds to one run in eight innings, as the Indians came from behind to beat Cincinnati on Saturday, 2-1. The victory extended Cleveland’s winning streak to a season-high five games.
Kluber worked around some early traffic, scattered nine hits, and recovered to strike out seven in his third straight impressive performance. In fact, the righty has struck out 37, walked just one, and surrendered two earned runs over the past 25 innings of work.
“The Kluber that we’ve seen, I thought he dialed it in and started getting it going after about the third inning and he finished really strong,” manager Terry Francona said.
In fact, some minor hamstring tightness was the only thing that prevented Kluber from pitching the ninth — a task in which Cody Allen was more than capable of handling, retiring the Reds in order in the final inning.
“It’s fine,” Kluber said. “A couple pitches [in the eighth inning] it kind of twinged or grabbed a little bit. [We were] playing it safe more than anything.”
“It’s nothing that’s going to get in the way, but that kind of made it easy [to take him out],” Francona added. “There’s no way I’m going to let him go out there through the heart of the lineup [like that].”
The Indians ace, who gave up a solo run on a sacrifice fly by Zack Cozart in the second inning on Saturday, has responded well to questions regarding his 2014 AL Cy Young Award-winning encore. After a handful of uncharacteristic performances, Kluber has lowered his season ERA from 5.04 to 3.49 over his past three brilliant starts.
His dazzling outings have coincided with some better play by the Indians, something that no one believes is a coincidence.
“It all starts with Kluber,” Allen said. “That game against St. Louis a couple starts ago. That was the kind of thing that catapulted us going forward.”
In that game, the righty struck out 18 in eight innings to lead Cleveland to a 2-0 win over the Cardinals. He backed that up with a nine-inning gem against the White Sox, punching out 12 more batters before the Indians lost in 10 innings to Chicago.
His performance has appeared to rub off on the Tribe’s other starts, as the club’s pitching has really picked it up recently.
“Our rotation is our strength,” Allen said. “When you can run out the arms we have in our rotation [it’s a big plus]. It all starts with Kluber. He kind of sets the table for the rest of the guys and they’re just following suit.”
“The guy’s stuff is fantastic,” Jason Kipnis added after delivering the go-ahead RBI double in the bottom of the eighth. “He does all of the little things — the preparation, the scouting reports he goes over. The guy knows how to pitch too, so we knew it was only a matter of time before he turned it around.”
Even more impressively, Kluber has been backed by the lowest run support of any pitcher in the Majors. Factoring in the two runs Cleveland contributed on Saturday, the club is now averaging 2.2 runs per game for Kluber.
Yet the Indians’ ace continues to shake it off.
“There are going to be nights where the offense doesn’t score a lot of runs for you,” Kluber said. “I think in those games you try to hold them to as few as you can and keep it close until hopefully they pull through like they did today.”