Corey Kluber maintains focus during an interview with Rick Manning and Matt Underwood on SportsTime Ohio.
Corey Kluber had many memorable moments during the past season, but we have narrowed it down to 11 that stood out above the rest:
April 8 – First win of season vs. Padres
After struggling in his first start of the season on April 2 at Oakland, Kluber rebounded and got the first win of the year by a Tribe starter in an 8-6 win over the Padres. In his six innings, he allowed the lead off hitter to reach the first four innings but allowed only three runs on nine hits with eight strikeouts and no walks.
"They had a lot of traffic early on in the game but I was able to work around it and that gives you a confidence boost," Kluber said.
April 24 – Complete-game win over Royals
In his 41st Major League start, Kluber got his first complete game as the Tribe defeated the Royals 5-1.
Of the 31 batters Kluber faced, he allowed only four hits with no walks while striking out 11. It was only the seventh time dating back to 1914 that an Indians pitcher had thrown a complete game with at least 11 strikeouts, no walks and no earned runs but the first since Len Barker’s perfect game on May 15, 1981.
Kluber threw 101 pitches with 75 being strikes. To show how efficient he was, four of the innings were 10 pitches or less. All but four outs were either strikeouts or ground balls.
"That was really fun to watch. He had everything working. His fastball was going both ways," manager Terry Francona said. "With his location, he worked ahead and threw a ton of strikes. He pounded the zone all day."
May 20 - TV interview with Matt and Rick where he got pelted
A day after facing the Tigers, Kluber was being interviewed in the Indians dugout by Matt Underwood and Rick Manning when teammates decided to have some fun at his expense. Kluber was pelted with sunflower seeds, water and baby powder while answering questions. During the interview, which lasted nearly six minutes, Kluber never broke a smile or showed frustration. "You look like a powdered-sugar donut," Underwood told Kluber toward the end of the interview.
May 30 – Win over Rockies and end of a masterful May
In a 5-2 win over Colorado at Progressive Field, Kluber puts the wraps on one of the best Mays by a pitcher in Indians history. In six starts, he went 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA. But what was more impressive were the 60 strikeouts against only eight walks.
With 12 strikeouts against Colorado, Kluber became just the fifth Indians pitcher to strike out at least 60 in a single month and the first since Dennis Eckersley registered 60 K’s in Sept./Oct. of 1976.
"I keep saying strikeouts are a byproduct of making good pitches. It’s not going out there trying to strike guys out," Kluber said. "I don’t really think of myself as a certain type of pitcher. I’m just trying to go out there and pitch."
June 30 – Tough-luck loss against the Dodgers
At Dodger Stadium, Dan Haren held the Indians to one hit, making the Tribe just the sixth team in the past 100 years to have two straight games where they were held to one or no hits.
Kluber allowed only one run on six hits. In the seventh, Andre Ethier led off with a triple that just glanced off Michael Brantley’s glove in left. Kluber retired the next two hitters before intentionally walking Hanley Ramirez. Then pinch-hitter Clint Robinson, who was in his eighth Major League game, singled up the middle on a full count to score the game’s lone run and end Kluber’s run of 16 straight scoreless innings.
Said Kluber about his outing to reporters: "For the most part I had a pretty low pitch-count for most innings. Got deep in the game. Brantley made a great effort to try to catch that ball, unfortunately it was just out of his reach. Overall it was pretty good."
July 19 – Second half begins with dominance in Detroit
For the second time in three starts, Kluber got to the ninth inning but was unable to get the complete game. However he got his second win against the Tigers in just nine starts as he allowed two runs on seven hits in a 6-2 victory at Comerica Park.
It was also the fifth game this season where Kluber has had double-digit strikeouts (10) and one walk or less. Eckersley was the only other Tribe pitcher to accomplish that when he had five in 1976.
"I located my fastball pretty well for the most part. I pitched inside enough to keep them honest that they weren’t able to reach," Kluber said.
July 24 – Nearly perfect in Kansas City
Kluber had a perfect game going through 6 1/3 innings. In going nine innings he allowed only two hits, walked none and struck out 10. Kansas City scored an unearned run in the eighth on the flukiest play of the year when Ryan Raburn spiked the ball in left on an inside the park homer by Mike Moustakas.
The Indians rallied to tie in the ninth before falling to the Royals 2-1 in 14 innings. In 13 of Kluber’s 34 starts he got run support of one run or fewer.
"We’ve seen Klubes pitch really well this year, but that was [impressive]," Francona said. "I wish we had some runs, so you can sit back and really enjoy it, because that was pretty special, what he was doing. You can pick all the adjectives you want. He really pitched."
July 30 – Going the distance to beat King Felix
On the same day that Justin Masterson was traded to the Cardinals, Kluber outdueled Felix Hermandez with a complete game in a 2-0 win over the Mariners. After this game, talk of Kluber contending for the Cy Young shifted into overdrive.
Kluber threw 85 strikes with only 16 being balls. He allowed only three hits while striking out eight and walking none. Kluber faced only one batter over the minimum. Of the 28 batters he faced, he threw first-pitch strikes to 22 and didn’t get to a three-ball count the entire night. He got to a two-ball count on only four.
Since pitch counts began being tracked officially in 1988, Kluber is only the second Indians’ pitcher to record a nine-inning shutout in 90 pitches or less and the first since Charles Nagy did it on June 12, 1992, against the Yankees.
"That’s always my game plan — to get early contact," Kluber said. "You just try to stay the course. They came out of the gates aggressive and kind of got more aggressive in the middle of the game. So, I was trying to keep doing what I was doing."
Sept. 6 – Bouncing back with complete game No. 3
After going just 2 2/3 innings in his last start against the Tigers, Kluber went the distance in a 3-1 victory over the White Sox. In his third complete game of the season, Kluber threw 104 pitches (74 for strikes) and gave up one unearned run on five hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.
Kluber was efficient all night. Of the 33 batters he faced, 24 had at-bats of three pitches or fewer, including five who faced only one pitch. He is the first pitcher since Len Barker in 1981 to throw three complete games in which he hasn’t allowed an earned run and had eight strikeouts or more.
He threw fastballs to the first nine batters and didn’t deviate from that until the 31st pitch of the game when he threw a slider to Adam Eaton. Of Kluber’s eight strikeouts, all but one came in the final six innings.
"You don’t give away your good stuff early. If you can get through three innings with your fastball you should do it every time," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "Establish fastball command and make them respect that and then your offspeed stuff is going to be dominant the rest of the game which is kind of what we saw."
Sept. 16 – Career high 14 Ks at Houston
With the Indians on a four-game losing streak, Kluber struck out a career-high 14 to beat the Astros 4-2. Kluber went seven innings and allowed only one run on seven hits with two walks. His previous career high in strikeouts was 13 on May 4 against the White Sox.
"He looks as strong as ever," manager Terry Francona told reporters after the game. "There were times tonight where he needed strikeouts. He worked ahead and executed pitches. He normally starts out a game establishing fastball command but this game he had to work into it. His stuff is so late moving and going both directions, pitching in and opening up away. There’s a reason why he had those strikeouts."
Kluber gave up his only run in the first on a two-out single by Marwin Gonzalez to score Jose Altuve. According to Baseball Reference, Kluber became only the third Indians pitcher since 1914 to have a game where he struck out 14 or more, walked two or fewer and gave up one run or fewer. Sam McDowell did it three times (May 1, 1968, vs. Oakland; June 21, 1973; July 19, 1970, vs. Minnesota and Sept. 18, 1968, vs. Detroit) and Gaylord Perry did it on June 21, 1973, against Milwaukee.
Sept. 21 - Encore 14 Ks in Minnesota
Kluber kept the Indians in the Wild Card race with his second straight 14-strikeout game, this one coming in a 7-2 win over Minnesota.
Kluber held the Twins to two runs on seven hits with a walk in eight innings. It was the first time since Arizona’s Randy Johnson did it in 2001 that a pitcher had consecutive starts with at least 14 strikeouts. Sam McDowell was the only other Indian to do that as he accomplished it twice in 1968.
"I just think, again I’m going to fall back on I told you so. He wasn’t tired and everyone wanted to jump on and nag about it. He’s worked too hard," Francona said. "It’s amazing how crisp he is and he commands his pitches so well. He’s so good and you put the intangibles with his stuff and he is becoming one of the better pitchers in the game and that’s very exciting."