BOSTON -- The pitching line in the box score was pristine: Seven innings and no runs allowed. In terms of results, Indians ace Corey Kluber was in fine form in his win over the Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday.What Kluber's incredible command
BOSTON -- The pitching line in the box score was pristine: Seven innings and no runs allowed. In terms of results, Indians ace Corey Kluber was in fine form in his win over the Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday.
What Kluber's incredible command masked, however, was the fact that his pitch velocity had dropped from its usual levels. The right-hander was making his first start after a bout with a mild quadriceps strain, which necessitated a 10-day rest period leading up to his outing against Boston.
"Pushing off a little bit is probably not 100 percent," Indians manager Terry Francona said prior to Game 3 on Monday at Fenway Park (Cleveland won, 4-3, to advance to the AL Championship Series). "But I'm not too sure how many guys at this time of year are [at full strength], one way or another."
During Friday's seven-inning performance, in which Kluber struck out seven and scattered three hits, his average four-seam fastball velocity was 93.4 mph, which was down from 95.5 mph in his final regular-season start on Sept. 26, and his average for the final month (94.2). There were also noticable drops in pitch speed on Kluber's two-seamer, curveball, cutter and changeup.
All of that said, Kluber featured a sinker that was grazing the edges of the strike zone with precision, contributing to four called third strikes. It is also worth noting that the 93.4 mph average on his four-seamer against the Red Sox was exactly in line with his average for the entire season. Kluber's velocity climbed as the year went along, hitting the highest rates in September.
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Kluber was scheduled to throw off the mound in a bullpen session on Monday. Francona noted that the team's rotation leader has felt fine in the days since his Game 2 start, adding that the recent quadriceps issue (and extended layoff) may have led to the diminished velocity.
"That wouldn't surprise me," Francona said. "But he had so much movement. Fortunately, he kept it in the zone."
Other items of note
• Francona has had success managing a team with a large payroll (Red Sox) and a lower payroll (Indians). The manager said this week that the only time it makes a difference is "in the winter. Not now. When the game starts, it's the game." Francona then praised Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti for the work he and his staff did over the winter, especially signing Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.
"Four years ago, Chris sat me down and really had an honest conversation about some of our challenges," Francona said. "Sometimes the neighborhood you work in is a little different during the winter. If we make a mistake, it can hurt us not just for this year, but for the next year. And so we have to be very cognizant of that. That's why I thought Chris and his guys did such a good job this winter."
• The Indians led the Majors in platoon advantage -- both in terms of offense (70 percent) and pitching (54 percent) this season -- becoming the first team to lead in both categories since the 1985 Cardinals. When it comes to constructing a lineup, Francona considers more factors than lefty-righty splits.
"One is how they do against left or right," Francona explained. "Then maybe not just left or right, but certain types of left or right. The other one is: What's your alternative? Does it help you? Do you rob one place, like defensively? You're also looking at balancing your lineup and you're looking at your bench, too. So you try to balance it."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.