Top All-Star Pitching Performances by the Cleveland Indians

After several years of being snubbed, and nearly falling short of the American League All-Star team for a third straight year this season (despite statistically deserving consideration), Corey Kluber will finally make his long anticipated debut in the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday night when the AL team takes on the National League squad from Petco Park in San Diego, California.

The 2014 Cy Young winner nearly missed the game altogether after failing to make the initial roster. An injury to Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada got him a ticket to the game and AL manager Ned Yost has tabbed Kluber to take the mound second as the league looks to lock up home field advantage in the World Series.

His fellow starting rotation member, Danny Salazar, was selected to the team last Tuesday, but he has since bowed out of the game to rest his sore right elbow and was replaced by Chicago left-hander Jose Quintana. Indians teammate Francisco Lindor will come off of the bench for the AL at some point in the contest.

The All-Star honors were the first in the careers of all three Indians players.

Kluber will join a long list of acclaimed pitchers to represent the Indians franchise on the mound in the exhibition game and becomes just the second of the team’s four Cy Young Award winners to make an All-Star team for the club in the years after securing the top pitching honor (Gaylord Perry won the award in 1972 and started the game for the Indians and the AL in 1974).

Kluber was the only of the award winners to fail to make the All-Star team the season he took home the hardware. The 30-year-old right-hander is 36-33 over the last two and a half seasons with a 3.09 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and an average of 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He has done so while throwing ten complete games and three shutouts in 84 starts.

He and Salazar are the first Indians pitchers selected to the game since Justin Masterson in 2013. The Indians last had two pitchers selected for the exhibition in 2004, when CC Sabathia and Jake Westbrook were selected to the team. Cleveland also had two pitchers on the very first All-Star team in 1933 at Comiskey Park, when pitchers Wes Ferrell and Oral Hildebrand were joined by outfielder Earl Averill (neither pitcher appeared in the game for Connie Mack’s AL team).

The Indians last had three players selected to the Midsummer Classic in 2007.

Kluber can add his name to the list of the city’s pitching legends to appear in the All-Star Game, including but certainly not limited to Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Sam McDowell, Mel Harder, Mike Garcia, Charles Nagy, Early Wynn, and Sabathia, all of whom were selected to at least three of the exhibitions in their careers.

Kluber has a long way to go to catch up to the sheer number of appearances that those men made while representing Cleveland on the midseason stage, but he can now say that he got that first one out of the way. He will have an opportunity to add his effort to some of the following games that rank among the best by Indians pitchers in the long history of the All-Star Game.

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Mel Harder (1934)

Harder was named to the AL All-Star team in 1934, the first of four straight All-Star appearances for the right-hander. He was selected to the team after starting the season 8-5.

His effort on the mound as the first Indians pitcher to ever appear in an All-Star Game should remain the longest in club history moving forward, given the change in how the teams are constructed and how the pitchers are used. He logged five innings just one half inning after the AL put six runs on the board in the fifth to take an 8-4 lead. After Red Ruffing allowed the first four batters of the bottom of the fifth to reach base, with two runs crossing the plate, Harder came in and got out of the inning with only one more run crossing the plate. He would strike out two and issue just one hit and one walk in five innings of work to earn the win in the second All-Star Game in MLB history.

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Bob Feller (1941)

In what would be his final All-Star Game before enlisting in the U.S. Navy one day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Feller earned his first start for the AL in the Midsummer Classic.

Feller was sharp. In three innings of work, he allowed just Lonny Frey to reach base to lead off the third inning and then erased him on a pickoff play. He struck out four batters in the game, including the first and last batters that he faced.

Feller was 16-4 at the break and would finish the season 25-13, his third straight 20-win season. He posted his fourth consecutive season of 240 strikeouts or more, all of which led the league. He logged 343 innings on the mound, then a career-high.

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Bob Feller (1946)

Before heading into duty during World War II, Feller was already a four-time All-Star. He returned late in the 1945 season, winning five of his nine starts.

In his first full season back from war, Feller did not disappoint at all. He headed into the break with a 15-5 record in 20 starts with six complete game shutouts. Just one time in 20 games did he fail to go the distance. He had punched out 190 batters in 180 innings and was sporting a 1.90 ERA, so it is safe to say that starting the All-Star Game for former Indians manager Steve O’Neill was not an unreasonable or undeserved task.

Feller worked the first three innings of the contest, earning the win while allowing two hits and striking out three. The AL coasted to a 12-0 win.

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Ray Narleski (1958)

Narleski was one of two Indians representatives in the 1958 Midsummer Classic. He was joined by Mickey Vernon, who singled and scored in his only at bat at Memorial Stadium. Narleski came on in relief in the top of the second, with the AL down 3-1, and faced twelve batters. He allowed just one hit (Frank Thomas) and one walk (Hank Aaron) over the span of three and one-third innings. His effort kept the score close enough to allow Vernon to score the tying run in the fifth and pinch-hitter Gil McDougald to knock in the go-ahead run in the sixth on the way to a 4-3 AL victory.

As if his pitching performance wasn’t good enough, Narleski aided his own cause at the plate – he singled off of Warren Spahn in the bottom of the second in his only at bat of the game.

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Sam McDowell (1969)

“Sudden Sam” was the Indians’ only All-Star representative in 1969. The game was nearly decided by the time McDowell got his turn on the mound (with the National League leading by a 9-3 advantage), but it did not prevent him from showcasing his stuff. Pitching in his fourth All-Star Game for Cleveland, McDowell struck out four of the six batters he faced over two innings, including Roberto Clemente.

McDowell went into the break with an 11-9 record with a 2.78 ERA and 156 strikeouts. He finished the year 18-14 with a 2.94 ERA and 279 strikeouts, a new career high for wins in a season. His strikeout total was tops in the league for the fourth time in his career.

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Honorable mentions: M. Harder (1935): 3 innings pitched, 1 hit allowed, 1 strikeout, 1 save; B. Feller (1939): 3 2/3 IP, 1 hit allowed, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 1 save; B. Lemon (1950): 3 IP, 1 hit allowed, 2 strikeouts; Greg Swindell (1989): 1 2/3 IP, 2 hits allowed, 3 strikeouts, 1 hold; Doug Jones (1989): 1 1/3 IP, 1 hit allowed, 1 save.

Indians pitchers to start an All-Star Game:
B. Feller (1941, 1946)
Luis Tiant (1968)
G. Perry (1974)
C. Nagy (1996)
Cliff Lee (2008)

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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