The vaunted starting pitching the Cleveland Indians were purported to have coming into the season has finally made an appearance over the last couple of weeks.
When Andrew Miller went down with patella tendonitis at the beginning of the month, the rotation was in kind of a slump. Mike Clevinger had been knocked around in three straight appearances, and Carlos Carrasco coughed up a five run lead his teammates staked him against Boston’s Chris Sale.
In reality, the rotation had battled injuries for most of the year.
Ace Corey Kluber missed most of May with a lower back issue, and Danny Salazar missed about six weeks with shoulder issues, after having not pitched well for five or six starts before he went on the disabled list.
Trevor Bauer was as inconsistent as ever, and that put a toll on the bullpen, which manifested itself with Miller’s injury and even Bryan Shaw started showing signs of the heavy workload he has carried for four seasons.
Suddenly, when Miller wasn’t available, the starters picked up the slack.
It started with Kluber throwing a complete game in a 5-1 win over the Yankees, and that was followed by Bauer going eight vs. The Bronx Bombers in a 7-2 triumph.
Outside of an 8-1 loss to the Yanks in a game skewed by Abraham Almonte losing what should have been an inning ended flyball in the sun, Tribe pitchers haven’t allowed more than four runs in any of their last 11 games.
Obviously, Kluber is the constant, again showing why he is among the four or five best starting pitchers in the sport, throwing a second complete game against the Rockies, and winning against the Rays last Sunday.
Salazar looks like the guy who made the All Star team a year ago, allowing just four earned runs in 25-1/3 innings in his four starts since coming off the DL.
Carrasco is capable of being dominating and held the rotation together while Kluber was out.
But, he was just okay over the last few weeks, but had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning of his last start against Tampa, and along with Bauer has been the only constants in the rotation, making every start.
Bauer has been the wild card. Since becoming basically a fastball/curveball pitcher (which occurred in his May 30th start vs. Oakland), he has been much more consistent.
In his last 14 starts, the right-hander has pitched to a 3.74 ERA and in 77 innings, has struck out 85 batters, while walking 29.
That makes for a very nice middle of the rotation starting pitcher.
Clevinger was skipped for a turn because of off-days and he responded with seven shutout frames against the Rays on Saturday.
The strong starting pitching was needed because of Miller’s absence. Terry Francona didn’t have the Miller “crutch” to help him in the 6th or 7th innings of tight games.
It also gave Tyler Olson an opportunity, and he looks like he can be a worthy fill in for Boone Logan as the southpaw Tito can go to earlier in games to get a key left-handed hitter out.
We don’t expect everyone to keep this up through the end of the season, but if the Tribe continues to get length from its rotation, the burden on the relief corps will be eased and they should be rested if and when the Indians start post-season play.
And we all remember what a key that was a year ago.