Posts Tagged Corey Kluber

Flashback to 1995: A 1-0 gem featuring few, few pitches

I was interested in the Cleveland-Seattle game from July 30 because of the major-league record Felix Hernandez was potentially about to break, but as it turned out, it was the Indians’ starter that was making the headlines.

Corey Kluber, who is now the ace in Cleveland after the Indians traded Justin Masterson earlier in the day, threw an 85-pitch shutout to defeat Hernandez and the Mariners, 2-0. In his previous outing, the 28-year-old right-hander had taken a perfect game into the seventh inning against Kansas City back on July 24 in the Indians’ eventual 2-1 loss to the Royals.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Kluber’s gem against Seattle marked just the seventh major-league shutout on 85 or fewer pitches in the 21st century [1].

That stat – so few pitches in a shutout – reminds me of a game in particular, one that featured Greg Maddux against his former Cubs teammate, Mike Morgan. It was an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game back in the 1995 season, where the Atlanta Braves beat the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0 in a contest that took under two hours to complete.

That night, Maddux tossed a two-hit shutout to outpitch Morgan, who allowed only six hits and a walk over eight innings [2]. A quick search on Baseball-Reference.com reveals that that game took place on August 20, 1995, with Maddux throwing only 88 pitches – 66 for strikes – in his nine innings.

mike morganAs for Morgan? He threw 84 pitches – 55 for strikes – over his eight innings of work. It might have been his best start of the season – and he did come within two outs of throwing a no-hitter against the Montreal Expos over a month earlier on July 3.

A tidy, efficient game for both pitchers, with the only run of the game coming in the third inning when Marquis Grissom led off with a double, moved to third on Jeff Blauser’s sacrifice but, and came home on Chipper Jones’ grounder to second base. That was all the scoring for the night, with the game lasting only an hour and 50 minutes.

Any baseball fan knows about Maddux’s dominance that season – where the Braves ace right-hander went 19-2 and captured his fourth consecutive Cy Young Award – so I won’t talk much more about him.

Let’s talk a little bit about Morgan, who went just 7-7 despite a respectable 3.56 ERA in 21 starts. Apparently, if you made him throw enough pitches – something that the Braves didn’t do – you were going to get to him in the late innings. More specifically, Morgan was virtually unhittable in his first 75 pitches in 1995, but became a batting practice pitcher on his 76th pitch onward.

That’s what Dodger third-base coach Joey Amalfitano told first baseman Eric Karros before he stepped up to the plate to face Morgan in the sixth inning on August 9, 1995. Next thing you knew, Karros stroked a two-run homer on the Cardinals right-hander’s 76th pitch of the night, and the Dodgers – with knuckleballer Tom Candiotti on the mound – went on to beat St. Louis, 4-2.

Speaking of Candiotti, he himself also once tossed a complete-game 1-0 shutout where he threw only 85 pitches. The knuckleballer fanned three and didn’t walk a hitter in the four-hit shutout. But that was a spring-training game back in 1987 between the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland Athletics, though the A’s did have their everyday players in the lineup that afternoon. According to an old San Jose Mercury News story from March 28, 1987, Tony Phillips (0-for-3), Carney Lansford (0-for-3), Jose Canseco (2-for-3), Reggie Jackson (0-for-3), and Mark McGwire (0-for-3) all played in that game.

Ahhhhh…great memories, and it’s thanks to Corey Kluber, the new ace of the Indians.

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[1] According to that same Yahoo! Sports story, Kluber faced one batter over the minimum in nine complete innings for his second straight start, which marked the first time it had happened in big-league history.

[2] Poor Morgan. He was also the losing pitcher in Dennis Martinez’s perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 1991, dropping a hard-luck 2-0 decision. He gave up only four hits in a complete-game effort, with both runs off of him unearned.

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Will anyone beat Candiotti’s Cleveland mark for 200-inning seasons?

Right-hander Corey Kluber, who worked 6.1 innings on June 4th in Cleveland’s 7-4 walk-off victory over Boston, has emerged as the Indians’ best pitcher in 2014, posting a 6-3 record with a 3.23 ERA through the club’s first 61 games of the campaign. With 86.1 innings so far through 13 starts, he is on pace to finish with his first career 200-inning season.

Kluber, who made 24 starts in 2013, pitched a career-high 147.1 innings for the Indians last year when he was 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA.

Last season, no Indians pitcher topped the 200-inning mark, with right-hander Justin Masterson (14-10, 3.45) leading the Cleveland staff with 193 innings. The hard-luck Masterson was on pace to surpass 200 innings until he was sidelined in early September with an oblique injury. At the time, he had already pitched 188.1 innings through 28 starts and would have easily gotten past the 200 mark.

Masterson was forced to leave his September 2nd start against Baltimore after only one inning. He was sidelined for the three weeks before returning on September 25th. He made only three appearances upon his return – all in relief.

The significance of Masterson’s injury – other than the fact that the Indians were hurting as they were battling for a wild-card spot then and couldn’t afford to have their ace out of the rotation – was that it stopped him from getting to 200 innings. Had he reached that milestone, it would have been his third straight 200-inning season. Masterson could have been gunning for his fourth consecutive 200-inning campaign in 2014. (As of right now, he is on pace to fall just short of 200 innings this season.)

Other than the fact that the more innings Kluber and Masterson pitch helps Cleveland win ballgames, why is the 200-mark significant? Well, the reason is that Tom Candiotti remains the last pitcher to register five consecutive 200-inning seasons in a Cleveland Indians uniform, having accomplished the feat from 1986-1990. Candiotti would have made it six seasons in a row except the Indians traded him to Toronto in June of 1991.

Think about it. If not for Masterson’s injury in 2013, he would have been more than halfway to Candiotti’s streak. If Kluber gets to 200 this year, it will be his first such season – and he will have four more to go just to match Candiotti.

nagy

Charles Nagy nearly matched Tom Candiotti’s record…but fell just short.

Even though the Indians have had Cy Young pitchers in the recent past – such as Cliff Lee (2008 Cy Young winner) and CC Sabathia (2007 winner) – nobody has been able to match that feat in a Cleveland uniform. Lee and Sabathia, both of whom were workhorses in Cleveland, couldn’t approach that streak. Lee, for instance, managed “only” three 200-inning seasons in a four-year span during his time with the Indians. Sabathia was close, as he pitched 210 innings as a sophomore in 2002 and then 241 in his Cy Young season in 2007. In between, Sabathia logged 197.2 (in 2003), 188 (in 2004), 196.2 (in 2005), and 192.2 innings (in 2006). He would then pitch a career-high 253 innings in 2008, but split that season with the Indians and Milwaukee Brewers.

Jake Westbrook, an All-Star for Cleveland in 2004, had three straight 200-inning seasons for the Indians from 2004-2006. Alas, he made only 25 starts in 2007 and threw just 152 innings. Prior to the streak, Westbrook had tossed 133 innings in 2003.

Going back a few years, Charles Nagy came the closest when he logged four straight 200-inning seasons for the Indians from 1996-1999.

Since no Indians pitcher got to 200 innings in 2013, Candiotti’s record as the last Cleveland pitcher with at least five consecutive 200-inning campaigns will last for at least five more years.

“Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs,” a biography of former big-league pitcher Tom Candiotti, will be released in July of 2014. You may pick up a copy either from Amazon.com or through the McFarland & Company website.

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