“What’s wrong with Corey Kluber?”
Eighteen strikeouts in eight innings against the best team in baseball? I think he’s fine now.
Kluber came into Wednesday’s start versus the Cardinals having already allowed nearly 40 percent of the earned run total from his Cy Young Award-winning 2014 season. Sure, he had been a little unlucky with a .373 BABIP according to Baseball-Reference, but that didn’t really matter to most baseball enthusiasts. Kluber’s rough start had people questioning his meteoric rise from league-average pitcher to one of the league’s best. I’m sure the “F” word was thrown around over the past couple of weeks.
And then: Eight innings, one hit, no runs, no walks … 18 strikeouts.
Maybe those snickering will take notice now that Kluber has thrown perhaps the best eight-inning start in Major League Baseball history.
That’s not hyperbole. If you go by game score, Kluber’s score of 98 is the highest from any pitcher in a start that went less than nine innings. The previous high belonged to Yu Darvish, who compiled a score of 96 during his near-perfect game against the Astros a couple of years ago. But at least he got a couple of outs in the ninth that evening. The previous high game score for a pitcher who was pulled after the eighth inning was Johan Santana’s 95 in 2007.
The irrational fan in me definitely wanted to see Kluber come out for the ninth inning. 20 strikeouts? 21?? This could be history! Just skip his next start! Give him nine days to recover!
Alas, after 113 pitches and not allowing the Cardinals to get a runner to second base all night long, the rational call was made. The job was certainly done well.
The 18 strikeouts are notable by themselves, other than the obvious fact that someone was able to strike out major league hitters 18 times in 24 chances.
Those 18 Ks are the most from any American League pitcher since Roger Clemens did the same in 1998 (Ben Sheets had been the most recent pitcher in either league to reach 18 strikeouts; he did that in 2004). The day after Roger’s outing, Kerry Wood struck out 16, and Randy Johnson K’d 16 two days after that.
With Michael Pineda’s 16-strikeout performance from Sunday, he and Kluber are the first pitchers to strike out at least 16 batters within a week’s span since that trio 17 years ago. Maybe another overwhelming pitching performance that creates a lot of wind energy is just a few sunrises away?
Regardless, rest assured that there is nothing wrong with Corey Kluber, other than what he just did to the St. Louis Cardinals.