Corey Kluber’s postseason greatness shouldn’t be overshadowed by Game 7

WPPROD

Corey Kluber had given the his team everything he had this postseason, posting one of the great playoff runs in modern baseball history, but he had nothing left in the tank for the most important game in Indians' history.

Kluber's start in Game 7 of the World Series was his third in nine days. It was necessary — the Indians' choice of starter was between him, the presumptive American League Cy Young winner, or Ryan Merritt, who has two starts in his major-league career — but the risk was obvious from the first game of the series.

Kluber battled and fought Wednesday night, but the stuff that dominated the Cubs in Game 1 and won Game 4 wasn't present for Game 7. The fastball didn't have the same zip, the breaking ball didn't have the same tight spin and the control seemed tenuous at best.

Kluber was gassed by the end of the fourth inning — the Cubs had tagged him for three runs, capitalizing on pitches Kluber left up in the zone.

The Indians ace tried, but the body had nothing left to give — still, he took the mound again for the fifth inning Wednesday night.

Indians manager Terry Francona opted to put Kluber back on the hill in the fifth to face Javier Baez, who blasted a homer off the Cleveland righty to make the game 4-1, finally ending Kluber's night.

Wednesday's four-plus inning, four-run outing should have little-to-no bearing on Kluber's legendary postseason — the Indians only made it to Game 7 because of Kluber's heroics.

Don't forget: The Indians ace came into this postseason as the only viable starting pitcher for the Tribe.

That's not hyperbole. Of all the teams in the postseason, you would have been hard-pressed to find a team with a worse starting pitching rotation than the Indians.

But they had Kluber.

No one expected that to be the case — Cleveland's rotation could have been viewed as a strength heading into the final month of the season, but injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar stretched the Tribe to the brink as the calendar flipped to October.

There's always a heavy burden placed on an ace pitcher in the postseason, but one could argue that no ace in this or any postseason in recent memory carried as much of a burden as Kluber.

No one can say that Kluber didn't sprint with that burden on his shoulders.

Kluber entered Wednesday's Game 7 with a 0.89 postseason ERA, four wins in five starts and 35 strikeouts in 30.1 innings.

Those strikeout numbers stayed static with Wednesday's start — that's how gassed Kluber was for Game 7. His postseason ended with a 1.84 ERA — still a spectacular number.

History might not look kindly on Corey Kluber's 2016 postseason, but regardless of what happened in Game 7, the Indians pitcher deserves nothing but praise for his performance.