Kluber K's 10, gets 100th win: 'A cool moment'
Righty turns back the clock with 10 K's, 8 scoreless innings
NEW YORK -- It only took Corey Kluber an inning or two to decode the Tigers' game plan, believing that their hitters were geared to pounce on any fastball near the inner part of home plate. After more than a decade in the big leagues, the right-hander knew exactly what to do with that information -- toss softer.
Kluber's trust in his changeup has been steadily increasing, and with guidance from catcher Kyle Higashioka, the offspeed offering was used to masterful effect on Sunday. Kluber hurled eight dominant innings, securing his 100th career win in the Yankees' 2-0 victory over the Tigers at Yankee Stadium.
"It felt good to go out there and execute for the most part from start to finish," Kluber said. "I think that's always the goal, but it's not always smooth sailing. So when you do have them, it's fun to go out there and have that feeling."
Higashioka and Brett Gardner drove in runs to support Kluber's effort as New York completed a three-game sweep of Detroit. The Yankees have won five of six games to improve their record to 14-14 -- their first time touching the .500 mark since April 12, when they were 5-5.
"It's better than being under [.500], that's for sure," manager Aaron Boone said. "Even when we're down and things aren't going great, I do know our group at its core has a lot of confidence. We're definitely moving in that direction now, but we also understand we've got to keep the pedal to the metal."
As Kluber explained, the changeup has long been part of his repertoire, but he is throwing it more of late. Boone loved the depth and feel that Kluber showed on the pitch, and adding it to a cutter, curveball and sinker mix mystified the aggressive Tigers, who missed at Kluber's changeup 13 times out of 19 swings.
"It was really fun," Higashioka said. "It's kind of like as a kid when you play a video game. I'm not randomly choosing pitches to call, but you can throw any pitch to any spot in any count. That's kind of how he's working right now."
It was Kluber's 47th 10-strikeout game, and his first since Sept. 24, 2018. The 35-year-old Kluber scattered two hits and struck out 10 with a walk, becoming the 17th active pitcher in the Majors to reach 100 wins.
"It's a huge accomplishment," Kluber said. "It's not just you, obviously. There's teammates involved in getting you to that point; training staff, strength staff, all that kind of stuff. But it's definitely a cool moment."
Detroit starter José Ureña landed on the wrong side of a brisk pitchers' duel, saddled with the loss despite limiting New York to two runs over seven sharp innings.
Both runs scored in the second inning. Gio Urshela reached on a dribbler that nicked third base and Aaron Hicks walked, followed by Higashioka ripping a run-scoring double that touched the left-field chalk line.
Gardner lifted a sacrifice fly in the second inning, with right fielder Robbie Grossman making a nifty play to take away an extra-base hit. That accounted for the production against Ureña, who retired the final 17 batters he faced.
"The first few weeks didn't start like we wanted, but the last week and a half, we have played a little better," Gardner said. "Hopefully that continues into May, and as the weather heats up, we'll heat up as a team."
With runs at a premium, Kluber's hairiest spot came in the third inning, when a walk to Wilson Ramos, JaCoby Jones' single and a wild pitch gave the Tigers runners at second and third bases with one out.
Kluber responded by striking out Grossman and Jeimer Candelario, escaping the only runners Detroit moved into scoring position during the afternoon.
"The changeup was effective today," said Tigers manager A.J. Hinch. "It looked like it had just a tick of velocity off his fastball and had a little bit of movement. He's a tremendous pitcher and can come up with different ways to get guys out. When they go over the scouting report and they look for holes, he's got a lot of weapons to choose from."
Kluber accepted handshakes and even -- to the surprise of viewers peeking in on the action from home -- flashed a grin after the eighth inning, with Aroldis Chapman working a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his sixth save.
"I'm probably not the vocal or emotional person in the clubhouse," Kluber said, "but I wouldn't say that I don't ever have a good time."