Corey Kluber has been one of the top pitchers in the game since returning to the Indians rotation at the beginning of June after spending nearly a month on the disabled list. That excellence on the mound has been noticed as he was named the American League’s Pitcher of the Week for games played between June 19 and June 25.
Kluber made a pair of starts during the award period and was about as dominant as it comes.
He made the start on Monday, June 19, at Orioles Park at Camden Yards, looking to win his third game of the month in four tries. He did exactly that, shutting out Baltimore with a complete game gem, allowing just three hits while walking none on 108 pitches. He struck out eleven, a season-high and the third time since returning from the disabled list that he had reached double digits in Ks in a start (something that he had done just once prior to his lower back strain).
He kept the Orioles at bay in the outing while waiting for his offense to come to his support. He allowed a first inning two-out single to Adam Jones before retiring 15 straight batters. A two-out single by Seth Smith in the sixth and another two-out single in the eighth by Hyun Soo Kim would be the last base runners to reach for the Orioles, with none of the two-out hits moving beyond first base. Kluber struck out at least one batter in every inning with the exceptions of the second and sixth and he closed out his night in incredible fashion, striking out the side swinging to earn the honors of an on-the-field handshake with catcher Yan Gomes.
The complete game shutout was the second of the year for the veteran right-hander and the fifth of his career. It gave him a dozen complete games in 145 career starts.
Kluber made his eleventh start of the season and his sixth of the year at Progressive Field on Saturday afternoon as the Indians hosted the Minnesota Twins. He would not factor in the decision as early errors cost him some runs, but run support late got him off of the hook before the bullpen wasted the Indians’ late rally with solo home runs surrendered in the eighth and ninth innings.
A throwing error by Jason Kipnis on the first pitch of the game allowed Brian Dozier to reach safely. After a Joe Mauer walk, Robbie Grossman doubled home a run. A second would score on a throwing error by Gomes that allowed another run to cross. Kluber would strike out two of the next four batters to get out of the inning with no extra damage beyond the two unearned runs.
He struck out the side in the second, set down two looking in both the third and fourth innings, and added one more while working around a two-out Mauer double in the fifth while the Indians pulled within one run after a Jose Ramirez solo shot in the bottom of the fourth. Kluber added another strikeout in the sixth and two more in the seventh to close out his afternoon, leaving on the hook for a loss despite a season-high 13 strikeouts before the Indians tied the game with a solo run on a Twins error in the bottom of the seventh.
The Twins would get a solo homer by Dozier off of Cody Allen in the eighth and another from Chris Gimenez off of Zach McAllister in the ninth in a 4-2 Indians loss.
In the two starts, Kluber allowed just two unearned runs on six hits with two walks (one intentional) in the span of 16 innings. He struck out 24 batters and held opposing hitters to a .109 batting average.
With one more start to go in the month on Wednesday night against the Texas Rangers, Kluber could lock up the league’s Pitcher of the Month Award as well. In five starts so far in June, he has made five consecutive quality starts and is averaging seven innings per start. In 35 innings, he has struck out 52 batters and walked just six, posting a 1.29 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP.
His next closest competitor falls just short. Houston’s Mike Fiers is a comparable 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in June, but he has made one fewer start than Kluber while working nine and two-third fewer innings with two more walks and 31 fewer strikeouts.
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