Game 32

May 13, 2015 – Kluber Shaves Beard, Strikes Out 18 in Eight Innings

The start of the 2015 season had been rough on Corey Kluber. After winning the AL Cy Young award in 2014, he lost his first five decisions of the 2015 campaign. Of his eight starts so far in 2015, the Indians had lost seven. By mid-May many fans and commentators were worried about their presumed ace pitcher.

The Cardinals were in Cleveland for an interleague series and sent veteran pitcher John Lackey to the mound for this Wednesday evening contest against the normally hirsute Kluber. When he came to the mound clean-shaven, everyone assumed that in a fit of baseball superstition he was trying to change his luck.

Kluber got leadoff hitter Kolten Wong to strike out swinging on five pitches to start the game. Matt Carpenter flied out to center. Kluber hit left fielder Matt Holliday with the first pitch of his at bat. It was perhaps his only major lapse in control. Former Indian Jhonny Peralta stuck out swinging to end the inning.

Lackey got out to a rough start, walking Jason Kipnis on four pitches right out of the gate, followed by a six-pitch walk to Carlos Santana. After a Michael Brantley strikeout, right fielder Brandon Moss hit a liner down the right field line allowing Kipnis to score from second. David Murphy then knocked a ground ball single to right, bringing Santana home.

With a 2-0 lead established, the rest of the night was the Corey Kluber show. He racked up a franchise-record eighteen strikeouts in eight innings of work. He recorded at least one strikeout in each inning pitched, with 1-2-3 innings in the 3rd and 4th.

He took a no-hitter into the top of the 7th, when Jhonny Peralta poked a single into center field.

He threw 113 pitches in the game, 74 of them were strikes. With his pitch count climbing, the no-hitter broken up, and Cody Allen ready to slam the door, Kluber did not return to the mound for the top of the 9th. Cody Allen retired the side in order on 11 pitches and earned the save.

In Indians history, only Bob Feller had eighteen strikeouts in a nine-inning game (Game 152 of 1938, which was a 4-1 LOSS to the Tigers!). Luis Tiant holds the single-game strikeout record for the Tribe, but his 19 Ks came in a 10-inning victory over the Twins (Game 82 of 1968).

Kluber would go on to put together one of the most amazing months of pitching in Indians history, with 60 strikeouts in the month of May. Sam McDowell holds the record for most strikeouts in a calendar month with 76. However, McDowell pitched in a four-man rotation prior to the institution of the designated hitter. Normalized for innings pitched, Kluber recorded 12.56 Ks per 9 innings in May 2014. McDowell’s best month was 12.35 K/9 in September of 1966.

When asked in a post-game interview if he shaved his beard to change his luck, Corey stated, “I did it for Mother’s Day.”

Baseball Reference Box Score


Game 15

April 17, 2018 – Lindor Home Town Home Run in Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico has history as an MLB venue, but rarely has there been more hype on the island than the April 2018 series between the Indians and Twins.

San Juan’s Estadio Hiram Bithorn is named after the first Puerto Rican MLBer Cubs pitcher Hiram Bithorn. It served as a second home stadium for the Montreal Expos for 22 games in the 2002 and 2003 campaigns. The dimensions of the stadium were expanded in 2002 to match Stade Olympique in Montreal due to an MLB rule that a teams home stadium dimensions must remain the same throughout the season (thank you, Bill Veeck and the 1947 Indians).

Estadio Hiram Bithorn

Although the Twins were technically the home team for the series, Francisco Lindor was by far the hometown favorite in Game 1. After an emotional introduction in front of his family, Lindor led off the game with a long fly-out to the warning track. After this initial scare, Jake Odorizzi settled in for the Twins. He held the Indians scoreless until the top of the 5th.

Twins left-fielder Eddie Rosario–also a Puerto Rican with family in the stands–led off the 4th with a single off Corey Kluber. This would be one of only five hits given up by Kluber over 6 ⅔ innings. However, Rosario was left on base and the game remained scoreless into the top of the 5th.

After striking out Yan Gomes and Tyler Naquin Odorizzi was set to face Bradley Zimmer. The rookie center fielder drove a line drive into deep right field and ended up on second. The 0-2 pitch to Lindor escaped the glove of Twins catcher Jason Castro and Zimmer advanced to 3rd on the passed ball.

Lindor worked himself into a full count, and on the 6th pitch launched a homer to deep right field. The shortstop known for his smile and enthusiasm was in his element. Lindor rounded the bases waving to the crowd and was promptly summoned from the dugout for a curtain call.

Francisco later described the trip around the bases, “Unreal. Unreal. It’s a dream…definitely a dream playing in front of the crowd. How the crowd got up. The home run…it was special. Something I will never forget.”

After another quick-work inning by Kluber, Jose Ramirez and Michael Brantley led off the top of the 6th with back-to-back home runs.

Brian Dozier drove in Max Kepler to get the Twins on the board in the bottom of the 7th and chase Corey Kluber. Andrew Miller replaced Kluber and recorded two strikeouts in 1 ⅓.

Yonder Alonso added to the Tribe lead in the top of the 8th, making it a 6-1 game. Cody Allen walked Max Kepler to lead off the 9th, but secured the final three outs to give the Tribe their first win outside of the lower 48.

The next day, in Game 16 the tables would be turned as the crowd was behind Twins starter Jose Berrios who pitched seven scoreless innings to start off a 16-inning marathon that lasted over 5 hours and ended when Josh Tomlin gave up a single to backup center fielder Ryan LaMarre.

Despite supportive statements via social media, the Twins organization was reportedly unhappy to give up two “home” dates on their calendar to go to Puerto Rico. Personally, I would love to see more early-season games in neutral locations. Although the Caribbean stadiums generally have a lower capacity and less-than-Major League amenities, the energy of 18,000 plus in Hiram Bithorn is a welcome change from the sparse crowds in Cleveland, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, or any number of cold-weather cities for April baseball.

Baseball Reference