Corey Kluber turned back the clock by turning off the Rangers’ offense.
Kluber’s no-hitter for the Yankees on Wednesday night, the first of his career and the sixth of the 2021 MLB season, was a typical performance for the right-hander: he changed speeds, he kept hitters off-balance, he induced weak contact. Those were Kluber’s hallmarks when he was winning two Cy Young awards in the previous decade.
Kluber has developed a reputation for being a methodical, deliberate, cerebral pitcher, so it’s only fitting that his road to redemption as a major leaguer over the past two years has followed the same path.
He last pitched a full season in 2018, but there had been no steep drop in performance before Cleveland sent him away in a December 2019 trade.
In truth, the deal leaned heavily in favor of the team he no-hit Wednesday; the Rangers dealt reliever Emmanuel Clase and outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. for Kluber. MLB Twitter and talking heads everywhere audibly guffawed at the highway robbery.
Kluber had finished third in AL Cy Young voting in 2018, when he won 20 games, before his 2019 season was cut short because of freak injuries. If “decline” was a reason why Cleveland sent him away, then it was vastly overstated. (It wasn’t the main reason, by the way, but rather Cleveland pleading poor.)
In fact, Kluber’s injuries the past two seasons weren’t the typical hiccups that force pitchers to decline. Two years ago, he suffered a forearm fracture in May when he was hit by a line drive and an oblique strain in August during a minor league rehab start. He made just seven starts in the majors that season.
He was held to a single inning with the Rangers last year after tearing a teres major muscle in his pitching shoulder, which is a part of your body you had no idea existed until you just read about it. He’s showing form this year that he may never have lost.
Kluber’s slow burn back to the top of the MLB mountain isn’t a luxury for the Yankees, either. They have work to do in the AL East and they’re going to rely on him to be almost exactly what he was Wednesday night the remainder of the season.
A revived Kluber gives a team that has long searched for a rotation top three the makings of at least a 1-2 punch along with Gerrit Cole. In four May starts including Wednesday, Kluber has allowed six runs (all earned) in 28 2/3 innings. That’ll play at the major league level. The Yankees will look to Luis Severino to further aid the rotation when he returns in midseason.
Kluber was in vintage form Wednesday night: Of the Rangers’ 18 batted balls, half had en exit velocity of 82.6 mph or lower. Two of the hardest-hit balls of the night came in the fourth and sixth innings, at a shade over 105 mph each. And he paired his signature stoic demeanor with all of that weak exit velo.
So, don’t be surprised that Kluber threw his no-no with machine-like precision and efficiency.
He’s still got the “Klubot” in him, after all.
Source: Read Full Article