CLEVELAND -- One by one, Indians fielders would take their positions to warm up each inning with an empty mound Friday at Progressive Field. Then Corey Kluber would emerge from the dugout and take his warmup throws. It was an unusual sight, but for Kluber, it was normalcy.His warmups are
CLEVELAND -- One by one, Indians fielders would take their positions to warm up each inning with an empty mound Friday at Progressive Field. Then Corey Kluber would emerge from the dugout and take his warmup throws. It was an unusual sight, but for Kluber, it was normalcy.
His warmups are timed for regular-season commercial breaks, but those are longer for postseason games, such as Kluber's start against the Red Sox in Game 2 of the Division Series.
"I think it's usually a minute longer," Kluber said after the Indians' 6-0 win. "I just realized that last night and just tried to figure out what time I usually come out. That way, once I do come out of the dugout, it pretty much stays as normal as you can make it."
He's not the first to do that, but the ones that do are either creatures of habit or very attention-detailed. Once his warmups turned to real pitches, the latter showed.
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With the Indians' bullpen taxed from Game 1 and the home crowd buzzing, Kluber not only delivered innings, but scoreless ones. His first postseason start, and his first game action of any kind in 10 days, was equal parts efficiency and precision.
"That's why he's our ace," catcher Roberto Pérez said. "He always gives you his best. I knew he was going to come out and be ready. I knew from the bullpen [warmups before the game] he didn't look like he'd had an injury."
Kluber hadn't pitched in a game since Sept. 26, when he left the mound against the Tigers with a mild quadriceps strain. The rust might have shown in his velocity; his average fastball of 91.7 mph, according to MLB.com Gameday and brooksbaseball.net was slightly down from his average. But his sinker was moving, and more importantly, he soon found he could spot it.
"I think in the first inning he was kind of like, I don't want to say wild, but I think excited," Perez said. "His command wasn't there, but when he settled in after probably the second inning, everything was better."
Once Kluber got ahead of hitters, he threw his sinker to the corners with ease. Five of Boston's first 14 hitters struck out, four of them on called third strikes. All of those were sinkers around the outer half, two on a frustrated Hanley Ramirez -- one to strand a pair of walks in the fourth.
"He was very good," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "I thought we stayed within the strike zone a little bit better [than Game 1] but still not much to show for it."
By that point, the Indians had a four-run lead, thanks to their early outburst off Boston left-hander David Price. Once Cleveland tacked on, the lead played right into Kluber's game -- and in turn, manager Terry Francona's.
Francona went to his bullpen early in Game 1 with the hope of a deep start from Kluber the next day. The farther Boston fell behind, the more the Red Sox fell into Kluber's trap.
"We're down a 4-0 hole," Farrell said, "and we've got to swing our way back into it. There really wasn't the ability to try to manufacture any runs or move our guys over. We had to swing our way out of it, and it worked into his favor, with the assorted pitches that he has, the life [on those pitches] that he has."
Kluber fed them 54 sinkers in his 104-pitch outing, 36 for strikes. He induced just four misses out of 22 swings, but allowed only one base hit off his workhorse pitch.
At no point did the Red Sox advance a runner on a ball in play. Their two runners in scoring position came on Kluber's two fourth-inning walks and a Sandy Leon walk and Jackie Bradley Jr. hit-by-pitch to lead off the fourth, the latter on an 0-2 delivery with Kluber's final pitch of the day.
Finally, the Red Sox forced Francona to turn to his bullpen. But with six outs to cover and a six-run lead, he could rest setup man Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen. Kluber had done his job.
"We talked before the game: Would he be a little bit rusty, or would he be really good?" Francona said. "I think he answered that question."
Jason Beck has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.