CLEVELAND — The Mariners found out what manager Lloyd McClendon already knew — Corey Kluber is really good.
The average fan might say, “Who?”
That’s Corey Kluber. Last name pronounced like “Tuber.” He’s one of the better pitchers in the American League.
Against a Mariners offense that is far from a juggernaut, Kluber dominated, pitching his first career shutout in a 2-0 win over the Mariners Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
It was the 13th time the Mariners (55-52) were shut out this season.
Before the game, McClendon talked about Kluber’s ability to dominate, saying: “He’s been tough for a while. It just didn’t happen this year. He’s pretty good. He’s 95-96 with the fastball, a slider from hell. That would make a lot of people good.”
And then he got to watch it for nine frustrating innings that took only 2 hours and 10 minutes. Kluber needed just 85 pitches, 69 of which were strikes, to cover those nine innings. He struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter to improve to 11-6 and lower his earned-run average to 2.61. It was the eighth time in his past nine starts that Kluber had allowed two runs or fewer.
The Mariners mustered just three hits and had just one runner reach second base. Robinson Cano singled in the fourth inning and advanced to second base on an error.
“That guy is good,” McClendon said. “What he did tonight wasn’t a fluke, trust me. People can make a big deal and say our offense wasn’t doing this or that, but he’s done that to really good offenses. I was part of one those really good offenses he’s done it to. All the credit goes to him.”
Of the Mariners’ hitters, only Cano had faced Kluber in a regular-season game. Some of the players had a few at-bats off him during past spring-training games, but nothing of any substance
“It was tough,” said Kyle Seager, who had a second-inning single off Kluber. “Nobody had seen him much. We knew he had the good slider and the good fastball with the movement. My approach was to see some pitches and see what he had and everything. But it’s hard to do when he’s throwing strike one and strike two and you are behind the whole game.”
When Kluber jogged to the mound to start the ninth inning, the crowd of 14,863 in attendance rose and applauded. The fans remained standing as he quickly registered three ground-ball outs to close it out.
Kluber’s effort overshadowed Mariners starter Felix Hernandez, who had yet another solid outing, pitching seven innings and giving up two runs on four hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
“It was a tough game against a tough pitcher,” Hernandez said. “He did a great job. For me, I don’t know what to say. I’m not happy because we lost. It’s just baseball.”
Hernandez had one bad inning – the fifth inning – when he gave up two runs.
But with the Mariners unable to solve Kluber, it was two too many.
With the outing, Hernandez set a Major League Baseball record with his 14th consecutive start of pitching at least seven innings and allowing two or fewer runs, eclipsing the mark he shared with Tom Seaver (1971).
“It’s an honor,” Hernandez said. “It means a lot to me. I’m just happy to do that. I’ve just got to continue to be consistent.”
In that span of starts, he was credited with just seven wins, took five no-decisions and was saddled with two losses.
“It’s a great individual accomplishment,” McClendon said. “It’s him and Tom Seaver. That’s pretty elite company.”