By Jonathan Peterlin
CHICAGO (92.3 The Fan) – It wasn’t pretty at first, even for great pitchers it sometimes gets that way. The top tier always seem to find their way out of the jams though.
To say Corey Kluber coasted to a Game Four win wouldn’t be accurate. He battled while throwing his sinker not looking as sharp, a curveball that didn’t drop like we’d seen, and the occasional slider. The first inning saw the Cubs get on the board courtesy of Anthony Rizzo lining an 89 mph slider up the middle. In the third inning, Kluber escaped two runners on by striking out Ben Zobrist on a curveball in the eighth pitch of a lengthy at bat.
After the rough start, Kluber settled down, and before you could blink he was through six innings allowing one earned on five hits while striking out six and in line for a win. This is what good pitchers do occasionally, but what great pitchers make a habit of. That is, getting out of jams, and putting their team in line to win.
From a statistical standpoint, Kluber has been dominant, but went quietly through each start tossing out goose eggs consistently on the scoreboard. The former Cy Young winner has now allowed just three earned runs in 30 1/3 innings while netting an unreal 0.89 ERA.
A performance baseball hasn’t seen matched since 1981 when Burt Hooton went 33 innings allowing three earned back for the Dodgers.
Like the reliance on Miller in the pen, or the bat of Francisco Lindor, we had grown accustom to this. Confronted with the task of doing it on three days rest, Kluber went to work. He hasn’t been heralded the same way as the others mentioned though, mainly cause we have seen this before.
Andrew Miller afterward on Kluber being underrated: “I don’t think you can downplay it, I think he’s certainly showed everybody how good he is. He might be a little under the radar for some reason. We’re glad we got him, he’s as good as they come, he’s been dominant.”
It’s amazing what the postseason can do to change everyone’s perception of a pitcher. Before this, I’m not sure many would have Kluber in the game’s top five for starters. Heck, he was an add-on for the All Star Game this year, but we’ve seen this all before.
2014-2016 totals with the rest of baseball:
bWAR – 3rd
Innings – 4th
Strikeouts – 2nd
This is dominant stuff.
Kluber has gone through the postseason taking out some of the top offenses in baseball in the Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Cubs. A lot of people, including Cubs skipper Joe Maddon thought it’d be easier the second time around. This Cubs team had managed to do that to other top pitchers the next go around in Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw. On Saturday night, it mattered, but Kluber still found a way.
The job is not done after all. Multiple players showed their appreciation while understanding the job is not over.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor on the 3-1 series advantage: “It’s good, but we still have to come out tomorrow and play hard. They’ve got a good team, we can’t expect to roll out of bed and get the win.”
Kluber will still be expected to throw the important Game Seven if it gets that far. Not an enviable task, but if his past performance is any indication, the team is in good hands if it fails to close out over the next two.