Defending AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber tied a lousy mark after his May 7 loss to the Royals. That decision dropped him to 0–5 in seven starts on the season, which leveled him with Zack Greinke and Frank Viola for the most winless starts by the reigning Cy Young in either league to start the following season. Needless to say, Kluber feels better about the long-standing record he tied in his eighth start.
Kluber struck out 18 batters in just eight innings in a 2–0 win over the Cardinals, tying Hall of Famer Bob Feller’s franchise mark for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. He held the Cardinals hitless through 6 2/3 innings, before Jhonny Peralta broke up the no-hitter with a single into centerfield.
Kluber’s 18 strikeouts were the most in a game this season, and the most in the majors since the Brewers' Ben Sheets struck out 18 Braves in 2004. It was also the most by any American League pitcher since the Blue Jays' Roger Clemens fanned 18 Royals in August of 1998. The 29-year-old righty had a chance to break the nine-inning record of 20 strikeouts set by both Clemens (twice) and Kerry Wood, but he was lifted from the game after eight innings and 113 pitches.
Despite the 0–5 record Kluber brought into Wednesday’s game with the Cardinals, he had actually pitched pretty well in his first seven starts. His 5.04 ERA belied a 3.20 FIP that foretold of better times to come. He also had a 23.8% strikeout rate and 5.7% walk rate that, while not quite at his Cy Young level, were both far better than league average.
Kluber had everything working for him on Wednesday. He struck out two batters in the first inning, one in the second, and all three batters in the third and fourth. After hitting Matt Holliday with a pitch in the second, which would eventually lead to some fireworks, he set down 18 straight batters before Peralta’s single.>
Three innings later, John Lackey drilled Jason Kipnis in the back as retaliation for Holliday, who had to leave the game with an apparent elbow injury. Home plate umpire Mike Everitt warned both benches, a move that Terry Francona protested given that Kluber’s plunking of Holliday likely was not on purpose. That earned the Cleveland manager an early trip to the clubhouse, but his team would ultimately answer for him.
It has been a disappointing season for the Indians, who entered 2015 as a chic World Series pick. They’re now just 12–20 on the season, looking up at everyone in the AL Central. One baseball game isn’t likely to spark a cosmic shift in a team’s fortunes. Baseball simply isn’t a sport built for that sort of turnaround. With their ace again looking like a Cy Young, and getting the results to go along with that distinction, however, you could forgive the crowd at Progressive Field for feeling like they were watching their team reverse their 2015 fortunes right before their eyes.