Times were tough in the Cleveland Indians rotation in August, but if there was one man that manager Terry Francona could count on each time out without worry, that man was Corey Kluber.
The American League recognized the efforts of the Indians ace on Saturday when he was selected as the AL Pitcher of the Month of August.
Kluber’s extended tear through opposing teams has lasted well beyond the eighth calendar month as the former Cy Young Award winner has thrown his name into the mix for the award again this season. He is 7-0 in his last ten starts with a 1.94 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, striking out 75 batters and walking 19 in 69 2/3 innings.
His August was easily one of the best in the league as he made six starts and posted a 5-0 record with a 2.43 ERA and 1.13 WHIP while defeating the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, and Minnesota Twins while drawing a quality start no-decision against the Toronto Blue Jays.
He started the month with his fifth of ten consecutive quality starts on the mound in his victory over the Yankees in New York on August 6. He worked eight innings in the 5-2 win, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits with a walk and eight strikeouts, using an economical 100 pitches in the outing.
At home against the Angels on August 11, he had plenty of support as the Indians rolled to a 14-4 win. He worked six innings, giving up three runs on four hits (two homers) while walking two and striking out three.
In a closer game on August 16 at Progressive Field against the Chicago White Sox, he earned his 13th win of the season behind six innings of one-run baseball. He allowed seven hits and two walks, but the only damage done came on a home run. He struck out seven as Cleveland won, 3-1.
He took his only no-decision on August 21 against Toronto in his third straight start at home. He worked six and two-thirds innings and was charged with two runs on six hits with a season-high tying four walks. He struck out eight and left the game in the seventh with the Indians trailing, 2-1. A two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth by Jose Ramirez proved to be the difference.
Kluber and the Tribe hit the road as their ace won his 14th on August 26 in Texas. During an offensive drought on the road trip, Kluber was treated to a 12-1 win as he went six innings, giving up a run (again on a solo homer) on five hits with a pair of walks and seven strikeouts.
He finished the month with another solid victory, this one over Minnesota to complete a three-game sweep over the Twins. He worked eight innings, using 109 pitches in his start. He allowed three runs on six hits (two home runs), walked two, and struck out a season-high eleven batters to earn his 15th win of the 2016 campaign.
Kluber’s chief competition for the Pitcher of the Month Award may have come from several faces with ties to the American League Central.
Kansas City’s Danny Duffy was the only other pitcher in the AL to register five wins in the month as the lefty went 5-1 with a 2.51 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP, and a .209 batting average against. He struck out 39 and walked nine in 43 innings of work. Justin Verlander led the league in WHIP in August with a 0.76 mark while helping the improved Detroit Tigers gain ground on Cleveland. He was 3-1 in the month in six starts with a 2.43 ERA and a .172 batting average against while striking out 43 in 40 2/3 innings. Rick Porcello, Verlander’s former teammate now in Boston, also put together a solid pitching line in August, going 4-1 with a 2.62 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP in six starts while striking out 41 in 44 2/3 innings.
Kluber was fifth among all AL starters in August in strikeouts, trailing Chris Sale (1-3, 2.89 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 52 K in 46 2/3 innings), Chris Archer (3-3, 3.03 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 47 K in 38 2/3 innings), teammate Carlos Carrasco (2-3, 5.20 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 46 K in 36 1/3 innings), and Yu Darvish (3-1, 2.95 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 45 K in 39 2/3 innings). Kluber was also tied for fifth in innings pitched.
He left a league-best 93.9% of runners on base in the month.
An All-Star for the first time this season, Kluber is the AL leader in shutouts with two and has tossed three complete games this season. His 3.16 FIP is the top fielding independent pitching mark in the AL. He is now 15-8 on the season with a 3.09 ERA and 1.05 WHIP through 27 starts with 189 strikeouts in 183 2/3 innings. While his strikeout rate is down slightly (-0.2) and his walk rate up (+0.3) from his career marks entering the season, he is averaging 1.2 fewer hits per nine innings this year.
Kluber makes his first start of September on Tuesday night against the Houston Astros.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer