When Corey Kluber took the mound on May 13th against the St. Louis Cardinals, he had an ERA over 5.00, and hadn’t won a game.
He showed his Cy Young Award winning form that night, striking out 18 hitters in eight scoreless innings, and allowed one hit in a 2-0 victory.
The Indians’ pitching staff seemed to rediscover itself on that night.
In the last 11 games, including that night, the Tribe pitchers have allowed just 30 runs, an average of less than three runs per night. You will win a lot of games when you hold the opponents like that.
And Cleveland has, they have won eight of those contests.
It seems that getting Kluber straightened out has sparked the club, and the other starters have followed the ace’s lead, starting with Trevor Bauer, who the next day, pitched a gem of his own, striking out 10 Cardinals in 7-1/3 innings, before Marc Rzcepczynski gave up a two-run HR to Matt Carpenter.
Yes, the offense is performing a little better, particularly since Terry Francona moved Jason Kipnis to the leadoff spot, but in this recent run, the Tribe is only averaging four tallies per game, scoring three runs or less in six of the 11 ballgames.
Everyone thought the starting pitching was the reason Cleveland would be a contender in 2015, and right now they are living up to those expectations.
When your starters perform like the Indians’ hurlers have over the last 10 days, you have a chance to win every single night.
And it helps that veteran Shawn Marcum gave his team a strong outing in his first start, beating the White Sox, giving up only two solo home runs in 6-2/3 innings of work last Wednesday.
Up to that point, the fifth starter spot had been a black hole for Cleveland since the first turn through the rotation.
Francona also made some changes in the bullpen too, as Nick Hagadone and Scott Atchison have taken a backseat after a few shaky outings.
Cody Allen seems to have better control and as a result is looking more and more like the pitcher we saw in 2014. He picked up his 9th save today, and has fanned 25 in 17-1/3 frames, although the 12 walks is still a scary statistic.
Zack McAllister seems to be the primary set up man, with a 1.64 ERA out of the ‘pen and 27 whiffs in 22 innings as a reliever. Rzcepczynski is the situational lefty of choice used by the skipper right now.
It was telling that the other night when Danny Salazar could only give the team six innings, that Francona went with newcomer Ryan Webb, who has allowed just five hits and three walks in 12-2/3 innings. Webb seems to be getting a more prominent role in the bullpen right now.
Bryan Shaw has been prone to giving up the longball, allowing three bombs in 13-2/3 innings to this point in the season. It appears he has lost the eighth inning spot he had in 2014.
But it starts with the starters giving Francona and Mickey Callaway six solid innings on most nights. That means the relief corps does not get overexposed and keeps them fresh.
That needs to continue.
If it does, the Indians may just be able to climb over the .500 mark and stamp themselves as the team everyone thought they would be at the beginning of the season.
It would be nice if they would hit a little better and catch the ball better too.
However, this is a team built on starting pitching and the ace of the staff seems to be back on the beam. That’s what got the Indians pointed in the right direction.