Terry Francona: Corey Kluber has made himself elite pitcher

CHICAGO -- For the second time this postseason, the Cleveland Indians are going to start staff ace Corey Kluber on short rest.

The Indians are turning to Kluber, a potential American League Cy Young Award candidate, to start Game 4 of the World Series at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs with Cleveland holding a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“Kluber has made himself, through hard work, one of the elite pitchers in the game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Once he got here, he didn’t take the foot off the gas. This kid’s routines are impeccable. He works hard.

“Every time he picks up a ball, there is intent. There’s a reason it’s October 28th and his gas tank, the needle’s on full. That’s a pretty big compliment to his work ethic.”

In his first short-rest start of the postseason, Kluber surrendered just two earned runs along with four hits and two walks against seven strikeouts in five innings of a tough-luck loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

But after watching Kluber test himself on short rest in the ALCS, Francona feels confident his ace can do well against a hard-hitting Cubs lineup.

“I think he’ll have a lot more sense of being able to be himself going into this start than he did the first time,” Francona said. “And I thought the first time, he did just fine.”

Over six-plus innings of work in the Indians’ 6-0 Game 1 win over the Cubs Tuesday, Kluber surrendered just four hits. He registered nine strikeouts and did not allow a run or walk. It was the third time in four starts this postseason that Kluber did not give up a run.

Eight of those strikeouts came in the first three innings, which broke a World Series record. Orlando Hernandez and Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson each registered seven strikeouts over the first three innings of a World Series game.

Also, the nine strikeouts set the Indians’ franchise record for the most punch-outs in a World Series game. The previous record of seven was set by Orel Hershiser in the 1995 World Series and equaled by fire-baller Jaret Wright during Game 7 of the 1997 Fall Classic.

During the first two rounds of the postseason, Kluber registered 20 strikeouts against seven walks and allowed just two earned runs over 18.1 innings of work in three starts. Kluber has a 3-1 postseason record, with wins coming against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series and the Blue Jays in the ALCS ahead of Tuesday’s victory over Chicago.

“I think that he’s good enough where you give him a task, you give him some time to think about it and get prepared, he’s one of the best in baseball,” Francona said. “He could give up runs. That won’t change my opinion. He’s just really good.”


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