Dominant Kluber settles for one-hitter vs. Twins
Righty a Mauer homer away from no-no
MINNEAPOLIS -- The only flaw on Corey Kluber's line in Friday night's 6-1 win over the Twins wound up in the second deck of the right-field stands at Target Field. For the second outing in a row, Cleveland's ace had a no-hit bid thwarted by the smooth, experienced swing of Minnesota's Joe Mauer.
Mauer's fourth-inning shot erased Kluber's shot at history, but it did not deter his dominance in the one-hitter, which marked the right-hander's second consecutive complete-game masterpiece against the Twins. Kluber pondered whether that kind of no-doubter to the nosebleeds was the most appropriate way to lose out on a place in the record books.
"A hit's a hit," Kluber decided.
The pitcher then cocked his head, having considered the question a few ticks more.
"Well, no," Kluber continued. "I guess I'd rather it be a single, because then they don't score."
These are the things left to discuss when there are so few hits to dissect.
Mauer's solo home run was bookended by 0-for-10 and 0-for-16 stretches by the Twins' lineup, which has been tormented by the American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner all season long. On Sunday in Cleveland, Minnesota went 0-for-20 against Kluber before Mauer sliced a single to left in the seventh. There were a couple more hits after that, and even a run, but Kluber also went the distance in that outing.
With his showing in the Twin Cities, Kluber became the first Indians pitcher to piece together back-to-back complete games since Roberto Hernandez pulled off the feat in September of 2010. In Kluber's starts, he has given up two hits to Mauer in seven at-bats, and two hits to the rest of Minnesota's lineup in 49 at-bats.
Kluber said Sunday's outing left little reason to alter the approach too much on Friday.
"If it wouldn't have gone well last time, then maybe you change stuff," Kluber said. "But, I think we had a good game plan based off last time. It all comes down to executing pitches."
The Twins recognized that Kluber was attacking in a similar fashion, but there was still little they could do to counteract his signature sinker-cutter-curve combination. The more aggressive Minnesota's hitters became, the more it played into Kluber's hand. Quick outs were the theme early on Friday, as Kluber did not register a strikeout until the fifth inning. Then, the righty struck out seven of the final 14 batters he faced.
Kluber's record stands at just 8-12 -- due mainly due to run-support issues throughout this season -- but he has a 3.34 ERA on the year, and a 2.78 ERA over his past 18 outings. Indians manager Terry Francona believes that, "it seems to be a trend where, as you get into the season, he gets stronger."
"Kind of all too familiar from last time," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He's good. His numbers back it up. [He's] approaching 200 strikeouts and all those types of things. I don't know if we adjusted very well from last game. We kind of fell in the same pattern a little bit."
Helping matters was the fact that Kluber, who has a tidy 1.38 ERA in 26 innings against the Twins this season, was spotted a 3-0 lead through four innings and a 6-1 lead by the sixth. On Sunday, Cleveland also jumped on the Twins' staff, giving Kluber a 7-0 lead after only three frames.
Armed with a cushion, Kluber can turn things up a notch.
"It takes a little bit of stress off the starter when a team goes out there and gives you a lead early," he said. "Then, you can just go out there with the mindset of attacking guys and, if you do make a mistake, like I did to Mauer, it's not going to cost you the game."
No, it only cost Kluber a no-hitter.
"Joe's a pretty good hitter," Francona said. "If you're going to lose a no-hitter or your shutout, that's the way to do it. That was a no-doubter."