CLEVELAND -- Ask Corey Kluber about his strikeout exploits, and his reply will usually be preceded by a shrug. The Indians' ace will explain that the win is all that matters, and all the numbers he compiles in the process are just the byproduct of making good pitches.
In the wake of Thursday's 5-1 victory over the Yankees, who were stifled by Kluber in his third complete game this season -- and the 13th of his career -- the pitcher broke from his usual script. Told that he did something that only Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Nolan Ryan had previously accomplished, Kluber did not shrug. For a brief moment, he let it sink in that his name joined an extremely elite class.
"All three are guys I grew up watching and idolizing," Kluber said. "To be mentioned with them is definitely an honor, and it's cool."
It is easy to recognize greatness in hindsight, but it is a little more difficult to appreciate it in the moment. Well, at this moment, Indians fans are getting an opportunity to watch history in the making. It is not a stretch to already proclaim that Kluber is one of the greatest pitchers in franchise history. There is also no denying that Kluber one of baseball's pitching pacesetters right now.
The historic footnote was this: Kluber joined Johnson (four times), Martinez (twice) and Ryan (once) as the only pitchers since at least 1913 to record at least eight strikeouts in 12 or more games in a row. Johnson last achieved the feat in 17 straight games between the 1999 and 2000 campaigns. Johnson was also the last to do so within the confines of one season (15 in '99).
Against the Yankees, Kluber piled up 11 strikeouts against one walk in a three-hit complete game. One of those hits was a solo homer surrendered to Gary Sanchez, but that hardly hindered the right-hander's momentum. This represented the 10th time in Kluber's past 12 games that he recorded 10 or more strikeouts, and it gave him at least 11 in four straight starts.
Kluber's run of three straight starts with 12 or more strikeouts prior to Thursday was a club record, and something only Chris Sale, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Curt Schilling, Johnson, Martinez and Ryan had done before him.
Catcher Yan Gomes, who knocked in two runs in the sixth with a double, said Kluber better be a household name at this point.
"They should [know] by now, right?" Gomes said with a laugh. "I mean, he's done some really impressive things with his strikeouts and leading our team for a while now. I think he should be getting some serious recognition now."
Since coming back from the disabled list on June 1, Kluber has been on another level.
Over 12 starts in that span, Kluber has turned in a 1.77 ERA to go along with a 0.78 WHIP. In 86 1/3 innings, he has amassed 131 strikeouts against 15 walks, allowing 52 hits along the way. During those dozen outings, Kluber has a 40.9-percent strikeout rate and an MLB-leading 18.9 swinging-strike percentage. Opposing hitters have turned in a paltry .172/.216/.272 slash line against the starter in that time period, too.
Kluber -- stepping back into character -- shrugged off all the impressive statistics.
"For me, I try to keep it as simple as I can," Kluber said, "and go pitch-by-pitch and inning-by-inning, and hopefully, in the long run, that works out to be a good outing and gives the team a chance to win. After the fact, hearing some stuff like that is cool, but during the game I try not to worry about any of that stuff."