CLEVELAND -- Since returning from the disabled list after a month of dealing with back issues, Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber has regained the type of form that made him an American League Cy Young Award finalist last year and an All-Star this season.
In a tough-luck 1-0 loss to the San Diego Padres at Progressive Field Tuesday night, Kluber struck out 10 hitters, and in doing so, set a new Indians club record for the most consecutive 10-plus strikeout performances (five).
“I don’t think strikeouts are the only way to reflect a good game,” Kluber said. “I think it’s a product of making good pitches, and I think I made some good pitches where they bent back into the strike zone. I don’t think that’s the only way to measure it.”
Despite taking his third loss of the season, Kluber allowed only one walk, scattered five hits and one earned run and registered the 10 strikeouts over eight innings of work. Of Kluber’s 107 pitches, 73 found the strike zone.
“He threw the ball so well,” Indians bench coach Brad Mills said. “He was outstanding, again. There was no doubt.”
In his last outing ahead of the July 4 loss, Kluber finished off a strong performance throughout the month of June with a 12-strikeout showing over eight innings of work in a 5-1 win over the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field last Thursday.
The win was Kluber’s fourth in the month of June and marked the sixth straight game in which he went at least six innings. In Kluber’s 13 starts this season, only once has he failed to make it through the sixth inning.
Kluber has struck out 35 batters over his last three starts and registered at least 10 strikeouts in six of his last seven outings.
“There’s no doubt he’s become consistent,” Mills said. “He’s getting stronger, more confident, and the way he’s throwing the ball is absolutely outstanding. There’s just no doubt. When he goes out there, you really want to win those games because you know you’re going to be in it, and the same thing goes every time out.”
In his career, Kluber has 31 10-plus strikeout games, including the five straight, which broke the club record set by Hall of Famer Bob Feller during the 1938 and 1939 seasons.
In his 31 10-plus strikeout performances, Kluber is 18-1 with an earned run average under 1.50.
On the season, Kluber has struck out 115 hitters against just 21 walks with 65 hits and 28 earned runs allowed over 88.1 innings of work. Despite missing several starts because of the back issues, Kluber has a 7-3 record and 2.85 ERA, the best of any Indians starting pitcher.
And when Kluber registered the record-breaking strikeout to become just the 7th right-handed pitcher since 1913 to have five straight 10-strikeout performances, he got a standing ovation from the Cleveland faithful, something even the normally stoic starter took notice of on the mound.
“They got loud, which was pretty cool,” Kluber said. “I didn’t take the time to step off and look around or things like that, but I didn’t know it was 10 strikeouts until Yan (Gomes) was sitting there on his knees trying to get us some extra time, but it was definitely appreciated.”