Tell me if you have heard this one before. On Monday afternoon, Major League Baseball announced that Corey Kluber had been named the Pitcher of the Month for his outstanding work on the mound.
Another strong effort on the mound from Kluber in September earned him his third award of the year (see also: June, August). The last player to win three Pitcher of the Month awards in one season was Houston’s Dallas Keuchel in 2015. He won his only career Cy Young Award that season.
Maybe, just maybe, the third time will be the charm for Kluber as well, in regards to his pursuits of a second career Cy Young nod.
The ace of the Tribe’s pitching staff made six starts in September and would take home victories in five while leaving in a tie game in his final start of the season on Saturday.
Kluber opened the month in Detroit against the Tigers on September 2. He worked eight innings to extend the Indians’ winning streak, allowing a run on eight hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. It earned him his second straight win, his sixth in seven starts, and his 14th of the year.
He was back on the mound five days later as the Indians’ road trip took them through Chicago. He would log his 14th double digit strikeout performance in shutting down the White Sox, giving up just a pair of first inning solo home runs on the way to an 11-2 win. He worked seven innings and gave up three hits on the night, walking one and striking out 14. The win was the Indians’ 15th in a row, breaking the franchise record.
Kluber got the home start with the Indians’ streak alive and well on September 12 in a rematch with the Tigers. He had given up eleven runs in his first two starts against Detroit, but had responded with a pair of one-run outings in his next two. The fifth one would be even better as he would go the distance for the fifth time on the season while throwing his third shutout of the year. He allowed five hits, did not issue a walk, and struck out eight to earn win number 16 and his fourth in a row. The victory matched the American League record for consecutive wins by a club, equaling the 2002 Oakland Athletics.
With the team’s 22-game winning streak over, Kluber returned to the rubber on September 17 as the Indians hosted the Kansas City Royals. Kluber extended his scoreless innings streak to 22 innings with seven scoreless against KC, allowing just three runs while striking out nine in the 3-2 victory. It moved him into a tie for the league lead in wins with 17 in the team’s first game since clinching the American League Central crown. He would later be named the American League’s Pitcher of the Week for his performances on the 12th and 17th.
The Indians hit the road and Kluber got a little extra rest with an off day and an extra starter thrown into the rotation before making his second-to-last start of the year on September 24 in Seattle. The rest did not hurt him, as he would allow just two unearned runs over seven innings, walking a pair and striking out ten Mariners, his 15th and final double-digit strikeout performance of the season. The Indians would go on to win, 4-2, as Kluber took sole possession of the American League lead in wins at 18. His scoreless streak ended, but his streak without giving up an earned run grew to 29 innings.
That streak would come to an end in his final start of the season as the Indians hosted the White Sox on Saturday in Kluber’s warm-up for the postseason. He would work only five innings and threw 81 pitches while manager Terry Francona handled his rotation in a way to get his relievers work during the last week of the season. Kluber allowed a run on six hits, striking out a season-low three batters in a no-decision. For just the ninth time on the year, Cleveland lost a game that he started, a 2-1 defeat by the Pale Hose.
For the month, Kluber went 5-0 with a 0.84 ERA, a 0.79 WHIP, a .199 batting average against, and a 16.7 strikeout per walk rate. He allowed just four earned runs (six runs in total) on 31 hits with three walks and 50 strikeouts in 43 innings of work.
Posting incredible numbers once again, his efforts may have cemented his case against Boston’s Chris Sale for the Cy Young in the league, despite missing a month of action while on the disabled list through all of May. At season’s end, Kluber led all of baseball or was tied in wins (18), ERA (2.25), complete games (5), shutouts (3), WHIP (0.87), strikeouts/walks (7.36), adjusted pitching runs (50), adjusted pitching wins (5.4), WAR for pitchers (8.0), and ERA+ (202), and led the American League in hits per nine innings (6.2), walks per nine (1.6), and winning percentage (.818). He trailed only Sale in the American League in strikeouts (308 to 265), strikeouts per nine innings (12.9 to 11.7), and FIP (2.45 to 2.50). Despite missing a month, he still finished fourth in innings pitched with 203 2/3.
The September numbers completed an impressive second half of the season, one in which he made 15 starts while posting an 11-1 record with a 1.79 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP.
Washington’s Stephen Strasburg took home the National League’s honor with strikingly similar numbers to Kluber’s in September, posting a 4-0 record with a 0.83 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP. He allowed three earned runs (four total) in 32 2/3 innings over five starts.
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