Kluber unfazed by lack of run support
CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber is a man of little expression. It is rarely decipherable by his demeanor whether he has just won or lost the game he pitched for the Indians. So far this season, Kluber has lost a lot more than he has won, but the pitcher has remained stoic.
A main part of the problem has been the lack of run support that has plagued Kluber more than any other starter in the Majors, magnifying any mistake he makes on the mound. On Saturday night, Kluber was not at his sharpest, but Cleveland's lineup went quiet once again, sending the Tribe to a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay at Progressive Field.
If Kluber has been bothered by low offensive output -- true to his nature -- he has not allowed himself to show it publicly.
"You want to win games," Kluber said. "And, when you're not scoring, it's hard to win. At the same time, I've got to do a better job of not letting the other team score."
Three batters into Sarturday's start, Kluber slipped enough to send the Indians to their latest loss. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner issued a leadoff walk to Kevin Kiermaier, gave up a hit-and-run single to Joey Butler and then watched Evan Longoria crush a 2-2 offering out to left field for a three-run home run.
That was that.
Entering Saturday's action, Kluber's run support average of 2.33 ranked last in the Majors among qualified starting pitchers. Cleveland's offense has scored two or fewer runs in 11 of his 15 starts, including the loss to the Rays. The Indians' lone run in this defeat came in the eighth inning -- one frame after Kluber already hit the showers.
"It's a shame," Indians outfielder David Murphy said. "You think when your ace goes out there, you're going to win that night. We, obviously, haven't played well behind him as an offense this year. There's still plenty of season left, so we can definitely turn that around. There's nothing we can do by focusing on what's happened. It's obviously a coincidence."
Saturday was admittedly an off-night for Kluber, who tied a career high with four walks and gave up four runs in his seven innings. The right-hander labored with his mechanics early on, especially with his landing foot, but allowed no hits to the final 17 batters he faced.
"There were times where he almost looked down at it like he didn't have his footing," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Once he was able to correct that, you could see he landed nice and firm, almost throwing against that front leg. And that's when you saw the ball be real crisp and his direction was better."
For his effort, which included six strikeouts, Kluber dropped to 3-9 on the season for Cleveland.
The nine losses match his total from his 2014 Cy Young campaign.
His teammates do not feel Kluber's record is a good indicator of how he has pitched.
"Not at all," Murphy said. "He's the Cy Young. It'd be one thing if his ERA was a 6.00 or something like that right now, but he's got pretty solid numbers. His record looks bad, but [that's] because baseball is a team game when it comes to that. His run support is the worst in the league."
Kluber has performed well otherwise.
Kluber currently leads the Majors with 103 2/3 innings and is second in the AL with 117 strikeouts. The righty ranks fourth overall in the AL in WAR (2.8 per FanGraphs.com), Fielding Independent Pitching (2.66), strikeouts per nine innings (10.16) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.32). Kluber has turned in a 3.65 ERA along the way.
Asked about his win-loss record, Kluber shrugged it off.
"You just move on," said the pitcher. "I don't think you have a choice but to move on. If you dwell on it, it's going to start to compound itself. Whether the start is good or bad, I think you don't have a choice but to move on to the next one."