In 2014, Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez were neck and neck for the AL Cy Young award and we all know how that ended up for Kluber and Hernandez as the former may have stolen one away from “the King.” Felix led in ERA, but Kluber had him in strikeouts and some other categories and ended up snagging that award. It was quite a story for the right-hander who had seemingly come out of nowhere before the 2014 season.
I digress however, as Kluber and the Indians came calling up to Seattle as the Mariners and their faithful got to see the reigning Cy Young award winner up close and personal. The Indians had the Mariners’ number on this night as they picked up a 5-3 win in the opening game of a four-game series at Safeco Field in Seattle.
Kluber didn’t totally shut down Seattle, but he came pretty close as he went seven innings giving up three runs on seven hits, but ended up striking out 13(!). The strikeout leader in the AL continued his strikeout tear through the league once again Thursday.
Dustin Ackley hit a two-run home run in the sixth and Mike Zunino got to Kluber on a solo shot in the third, but that was all the damage the Mariners could really do against Kluber and the Indians on this night.
“Right when you think you have him, he drops another pitch on you,” said Mariners left fielder Dustin Ackley. “He’s definitely tough. Throws hard. That’s why he won the Cy Young last year.”
A night after Felix Hernandez threw a complete game shutout, Mariners fans were going into tonight looking to see a Cy Young-type performance again and a Cy Young-type performance the fans at Safeco Field got to see from Kluber. For a city that gets to watch “The King” on a regular basis, Seattle fans know what they are looking for in a top-flight pitcher.
The Indians offense got started early with a Brandon Moss solo shot in the second and once the Mariners got it tied up, they extended their lead and never looked back after a three-run fourth inning. When Kluber is on the hill, you don’t need much scoring and the Indians got enough to preserve the win in Seattle, but it was a little more than usual for the month of May at least.
Coming off of his Cy Young award, Kluber’s first seven starts were horrendous. He was 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA with 46 strikeouts and an opponent’s average of .290. Since then, in his last three starts, he is 2-0 with a 0.72 ERA with 37 strikeouts and opponent’s average of .176. That’s quite a turn around and may be a trend that proves people wrong that thought he was just a one-year wonder. The turn around really started with that incredible 18-strikeout performance he had vs. St. Louis a few weeks ago.
“The guy’s tough as hell,” said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.
The Mariners were no match for Kluber tonight as he made some guys look plain silly at the plate. His counterpart, James Paxton, who got the start for the Mariners lasted just 4.2 innings after giving up four runs (3 ER) and had to leave early when he felt some discomfort in his middle finger on his throwing hand.
The Indians bullpen was also very good as they didn’t allow a hit in two innings of relief of Kluber by Mark Rzepczynski and Cody Allen who earned the save. In all, Indians pitchers struck out 16 Mariners and it just wasn’t their night at the plate.
Kluber entered the Safeco with a metaphorical target on his back because of the bitter taste that was left in the mouths of Mariners fans after their guy, Felix Hernandez, didn’t bring home the Cy Young award a season ago. I think he has proved some of the doubters wrong with his performance Thursday and he showed Seattle in person what kind of pitcher he is capable of being.