Cleveland Indians starter Corey Kluber struck out 60 hitters during the month of May.
CLEVELAND -- How dominant was Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber in the month of May?
Kluber was so dominant that he struck out 60 batters, and was only the second pitcher since 2005, with Texas' Yu Darvish being the other, to accomplish the feat and the first Indians hurler to reach the mark since Dennis Eckersley did in September of 1976.
"I just think that strikeouts are a by-product of making good pitches," Kluber said. "For me, at least, it's not going out there and trying to strike guys out. It's just executing pitches. I don't really think of myself as a certain kind of pitcher. I'm not trying to categorize myself as anything. I'm just trying to go out there and pitch."
Kluber ended the month by striking out 12 batters in Friday's 5-2 win over the Colorado Rockies in front of 25,066 fans at Progressive Field.
Although the Indians' fans saluted Kluber with a standing ovation, the team's leader with six victories was so locked into a rhythm that he did not notice the cheers.
"I'm kind of locked in when I'm out there, so one way or the other, I don't really notice," Kluber said. "I guess you hear it, but I'm still kind of in that game mode at that point in time. I'm not really checked out yet, so to speak."
Kluber struck out 12 hitters against a Colorado team that has a combined batting average of .286, tops in all of baseball.
Of the Rockies' hitters in the lineup Friday night, five had batting averages above .300, and five had at least 22 runs batted in, but no Colorado athlete had more than one hit in three at-bats against Kluber.
"I just think his stuff was so dominant tonight, and not just tonight," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It's not just stuff. It's location. When he comes in, he came in hard. When you see a guy's best fastball for a called strike in, that's impressive. It's easy to say that in a meeting. It's harder to do when the guys are standing up there with the numbers they have. That was really impressive.
"He can make the ball go both ways. He can cut it. He's got a slider and a change-up. He throws both sides of the plate. He's got power, and it's late movement. It's real hard to distinguish. The ball might be a couple feet from the plate when it starts to move, and it can go both ways."
Francona credited Kluber's success to his work ethic on the days when he does not head to the center of the diamond.
"He's good, but part of the reason he's going to stay good and get better is because if you get here early tomorrow, watch what he does," Francona said. "His routine is just impeccable, and that makes us really proud. It's fun to sit here and brag about him, but I'll be probably just as happy with him tomorrow because he'll have a great day tomorrow."
Kluber entered Friday's game with a Major-League best 48 strikeouts in the month of May and was tied for second with 83 through the first two months of the season.
Kluber now has five double-digit strikeout games in his career, three of which have come in the last two months, and has struck out eight or more batters in six straight starts, the first Major Leaguer to accomplish the feat this year.
He is the first Major League pitcher with 60 strikeouts in May since Curt Schilling registered 62 in 2002, and only the fifth Indians pitcher ever to accomplish the feat. Hall of Famer Bob Feller and "Sudden" Sam McDowell each had eight 60-strikeout months, while Eckersley, also a Hall of Famer, and the late Herb Score both had a 60-strikeout month once in their careers.
"They look kind of nasty," outfielder Michael Bourn said of Kluber's pitches. "He's hard to get ahold of because he's got balls going both ways. He knows how to expand the plate when he needs to, put it on the corner when he needs to.
"He's getting a real feel for pitching, and he just has an attitude of trying to get better. That's always a plus with somebody like him. He's come in and stopped the bleeding when we needed him to this year, and he was able to do it again tonight."
Like Francona, since joining the team two years ago, Bourn has seen Kluber develop into a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.
"The first time I'd seen him was in spring training. I was like, 'Oh, who is that? He's starting to look kind of nasty,'" Bourn said. "I didn't know who he was, but I've seen him, over the last couple years. He's a competitor. He doesn't shy away from the big moment. I think they had the bases loaded at one point, and that's a good sign from somebody like him."