We had a classic pitching duel in the Bronx today. The Yankee offense was a little sleepy against José Ureña, but the team’s pitching picked them up — and how! Corey Kluber was masterful over eight shutout innings, Aroldis Chapman continued his stretch of dominance to open the season, and the Yankees finally notched their first sweep of the year, setting aside the Detroit Tigers 2-0.
Let’s get right to it: Corey Kluber looked stellar today in the 100th win of his outstanding career. Yes, it was the Tigers. He still showed excellent command of five pitches, especially working down in the zone. I think his changeup was particularly terrific, with 13 whiffs on 25 pitches over the start. His changeup really blossomed earlier this week against the Orioles, and was remarkable today as well.
Kluber’s ability to locate it down and away against lefties — and really only leave one up in the zone — drove much of his success on Sunday:
Kluber fanned 10 on the afternoon, struck out the side in the second and third, walked only one, and obviously surrendered no runs. In fact, he was so strong that barely any balls left the infield:
Corey Kluber has recorded 9 K’s, 10 ground outs, a pop out to 3rd and a line out to second. The two singles Detroit has are the only two balls they’ve hit out of the infield off of Kluber! @YESNetwork— Ryan Ruocco (@RyanRuocco) May 2, 2021
Particularly impressive for Kluber was the length of his outing. After virtually two years on the shelf, he’d shown so far an ability to work effectively once through the order, before losing location as the game wore on. His K-BB% is 11.1 percent the first time through the order, 4.9 percent the second time, and actually negative the third time through. Until today.
Kluber allowed just a single hit during his final three innings. While he only struck out one in that stretch, he engineered soft contact the whole way through, getting six weak groundouts and a popout. To be able to work deep into games has been the main goal of this rotation, hoping to avoid bullpen burnout, and handing the ball from the starter to the closer is a great way to do that.
I think there’s still reason to be cautious with Kluber — the Orioles and Tigers are maybe the two worst true talent lineups in the AL, and I think that particularly bears through in plate discipline. Nonetheless, Kluber has now had two strong starts where he’s been able to rediscover his stuff and refine the command, and as said above, work his changeup more than he has in the past. Now, once he faces the Red Sox, Blue Jays, or other superior lineups, he’ll have rebuilt some stamina and command, and we’ll get an even clearer picture of how good he is. Overall, extremely encouraging week for the Klubot.
Unfortunately, José Ureña nearly matched Kluber stride-for-stride. Ureña is a mercenary for the season, on a one-year deal and likely to be a trade target come July, and really held down the Yankee offense for most of the game. He allowed a bit of traffic in the second inning, where Kyle Higashioka opened the scoring with an RBI double, and Brett Gardner just missed doing major damage:
That was really it for the lineup, and the game cruised by. If you pine for baseball of old, this contest I’m sure was a tonic for that nostalgia, taking less than two and a half hours to complete.
Finally at .500 again, the Yankees will take on the Astros after an off-day tomorrow, and I’m sure Tuesday’s atmosphere will be measured for the visiting team. First pitch is at 7:05 pm Eastern.