Corey Kluber entered Friday night with the fifth-lowest ground ball percentage in baseball, partially explaining his 6.38 ERA and -0.1 WAR through three starts.
Any pitcher with a low ground ball rate would be in some trouble, all things considered, but for a pitcher largely reliant on his sinker, it would be even worse.
Kluber was effective and efficient on Friday, racking up eight strikeouts on just 110 pitches, but most importantly, 10 of Kluber’s 27 outs came on ground balls, with 8 groundouts and 2 double plays.
The former Cy Young winner relied heavily on that sinker, grabbing four groundouts, including both double plays, and striking out three with his main pitch.
The equalizer in the complete game shutout was Kluber’s use of his breaking pitches. The curveball grabbed two strikeouts and a groundout, while the slider earned a strikeout and groundout as well.
White Sox hitters swung and missed on the slider seven times with one called strike. They fared worse on the curve, swinging and missing five times, and watching six called strikes
Only three of Kluber’s pitches were hit hard in-play, two ending up as ground ball outs. Melky Cabrera’s 7th inning single had an exit velocity of 106.4 with a 68 percent chance of a hit.
Left of center
Coming into Friday night, the Indians had the eighth-most plate appearances (190) against left-handed pitchers. Among the teams with 190 plate appearances against lefties on the year the Tribe came in fifth of eight with a .225 batting average.
That being said, the Indians were impressive against one of the game’s top left-handed starters in Jose Quintana, scattering five hits and walking three through six. Quintana was forced to throw 106 pitches.
Quintana was still fine, striking Francisco Lindor out twice with pitches considerably out of zone, while Michael Brantley struck out on a curve low and out.
The Indians found Quintana’s sweet spot, in the low-and-away quadrant against righties, where Brandon Guyer homered to make it 3-0. Austin Jackson also doubled on a four-seam fastball in the same spot, later scoring on a wild pitch that opened scoring.
Michael Brantley also singled twice, inside-outing a fastball and a curveball in that same spot, low-and-in to the left.
The team also tabbed lefty Dan Jennings for a hit and a walk through 1/3 innings, forcing him to throw 16 pitches.
Jason Kipnis went without a hit in his return to the lineup on Friday, going 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
Despite missing the first 15 contests, nobody could say that Kipnis looked nervous in his return, as the second baseman saw a team-high 28 pitches on the night. 11 of those pitches came in Kipnis’s first at-bat, that ended in a pop up to third.
Kipnis was tested with 17 four-seam fastballs, only swinging and missing once. His only other swinging strike came on a two-seamer.
Largely, pitchers stayed out of the zone, hoping Kipnis would be impatient.