Kluber wows in crisp return to form

After month-long DL stint, Indians ace fans 10 in 6 innings

June 1st, 2017

CLEVELAND -- The more went to his breaking ball, and the more Oakland's hitters swung and missed and walked back to the dugout on Thursday afternoon, the more catcher recalled the last time the Indians' ace was this overpowering.

"That brought me back to the World Series, Game 1," Perez said after the Tribe's 8-0 victory. "He had the same breaking ball going. He was throwing it for a strike and then throwing it off the plate late, and they were chasing it. He threw the ball really well."

More accurately, Kluber threw the ball exceptionally well, striking out 10 and walking one in a brilliant performance.

Prior to the rout of Oakland, Kluber was activated from the disabled list after a month-long recovery from a lower back issue. Since the start of the season, Cleveland's rotation has been searching for consistency, and that became an even taller task with the staff's leader on the shelf. Over six shutout innings, Kluber provided some more hope that the Tribe's rotation can continue to turn a corner.

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"It's nice to have him back," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "[It] kind of gives everyone a lift."

With his last start for the Indians coming on May 2 -- a three-inning outing in Detroit that ended with the right-hander struggling to stand up straight in the clubhouse after the game -- Kluber was limited to 77 pitches against the A's. That was more than enough for him to carve through an Oakland lineup that has been one of baseball's worst at handling curveballs.

Kluber's final pitch of the afternoon was a curve that looked like a strike out of his hand, but then it quickly tailed far and away. had already started his swing and reached the point of no return, as the ball spun low and outside -- nowhere near the Oakland hitter's bat. The result was a feeble swing in a game filled with them.

"His stuff moves so much," Canha said. "Anything I tried today, I couldn't really figure out against him."

Between his curve and a sharp cutter, Kluber generated 21 swings and misses (a career high for one game). Overall, the right-hander induced 24 swinging strikes, marking his most in a start since his 18-strikeout performance against the Cardinals on May 13, 2015.

"That was one of the biggest issues that I had early on in the season," said Kluber, who trimmed his ERA to 4.36 from 5.06 in the win. "I wasn't necessarily able to get through extension with my cutter and stuff. I think I gave up a lot of damage early on, too. So to be able to have a full arsenal to work with, it makes it easier to go out there and pitch, instead of struggle through it."

Indians outfielder Daniel Robertson savored his view of Kluber's precision from right field.

"It was special," Robertson said. "When you're at the angle that I was from the side, watching him work, it's special. His overall demeanor, just who he is and how he goes about his business, I think that's something to be spoken about more so than his actual ability."

It was the best Kluber's looked this season and, as Perez noted, the most overpowering the pitcher has been since Game 1 of the 2016 World Series. In that memorable outing, Kluber sliced through the Cubs, striking out eight batters in the first three innings.

Perez loved being behind the plate for both games.

"It was nice to see him back in game action," said the catcher. "He was filthy today."