Twenty-four final thoughts on right-hander Corey Kluber, a strange crew chief review and Kluber’s warm-up pitch issue.
1. Kluber surpassed his career-high in innings pitched in a season Wednesday with 192 2/3. But he insisted he’s not getting tired. “No, not at all,” he said. “I feel as good now as I did at the beginning of the year. Stuff-wise, I think my stuff has carried on throughout the year. I haven't lost anything. I just made a couple mistakes today.”
2. He also pitched for the second consecutive outing on five days rest and suffered his second consecutive defeat. But Kluber, known for his strict routine in between starts, said that hasn’t been a factor. “I don't think so,” he said. “I think I've had times throughout the year where I've had an extra day of rest and I've been fine. I just think, for whatever reason, I made some mistakes, kind of in some key spots. ... They took advantage of it. Even the one (Jose) Abreu hit in the (seventh), it was a good pitch. It was where we wanted it. He's just a really good hitter and he did a good piece of hitting.”
3. More of an issue may be the Indians’ lack of run support for their ace. Wednesday marked the 12th time in Kluber's 28 starts that the Indians have scored three or fewer runs. That includes six of his last seven.
4. Catcher Roberto Perez implied that the Indians may be falling into the same psychological trap as the fans, who expect victory every time Kluber takes the mound. It’s a common problem in the majors. I recall Justin Masterson falling victim to it when he was the Indians’ No. 1, although this is an entirely different team that’s guilty.
5. “When Kluber pitches we feel confident he’s going to get a good game,” Perez said. “It’s frustrating when you cannot get it done, but we’ve got to find a way.”
6. The lack of run support for Kluber seemed to bother manager Terry Francona. “He worked hard tonight and ended up giving up three runs and one came on a late hit. He’s pretty damn good,” Francona said. “If we score five or six, we’re talking about him cruising. … It seems like every time he pitches, every run means so much.”
7. Kluber threw 32 pitches in the third inning, when the White Sox scored two of their three runs. But Francona didn’t think Kluber was fighting himself. “I wouldn’t say that,” Francona said. “I thought his stuff was really good and he worked ahead really well. He just made some mistakes when he was ahead in the count. He tried to spike a breaking ball to (Adam) Eaton for the triple and left it out. Again, he’s not perfect.”
8. “I made some mistakes to guys with two strikes,” Kluber said of the third inning. “The ball that Eaton hit, it wasn't a terrible pitch, but that's not what you're trying to do with an 0-2 pitch right there. He was able to dump it into the corner and get a triple out of it. And then the two pitches to (Jose) Abreu and (Adam) Dunn were mistakes, too. They took advantage of them.”
9. Perez said Kluber made good adjustments after that. “He kept the ball down,” Perez said. “He made first-pitch strikes and his cutter was better. We were finishing guys with a good breaking ball down in the dirt. We battled tonight.”
10. Essentially, Abreu beat Kluber and the Indians. The rookie first baseman, who extended his hitting streak to seven games, drove in the second run for the White Sox with a double in the third inning. With runners on the corners in the seventh, his RBI single to center was the game-winner. He’s now 6 for 13 (.462) vs. Kluber.
11. “The last one, we stayed away. If he was going to beat us, let him beat us the other way,” Perez said of Abreu. “That was a really good pitch, a cutter away, and he just found a hole. We stayed out there pretty much the whole AB. It was a couple inches off the plate and he just found a hole.”
12. Asked if he considered intentionally walking Abreu in the seventh, Francona said, “There were a lot of considerations. If they had elected to run, we would have walked him. That’s a tough situation. He’s hit into a number of double plays. He’s a really good hitter. It’s tough, really tough. Mickey (Callaway) made a trip to the mound. We knew how we wanted to pitch him. The last pitch just caught too much of the plate. If we walk him there, it’s not the end of the world.”
13. Kluber was not a fan of replay before the game began and he got another illustration to add to his argument on the play before Abreu’s game-winning hit. Alexei Ramirez bounced into a fielder’s choice to third base and Lonnie Chisenhall’s throw home beat Carlos Sanchez by 20 feet. Perez took two steps in front of the plate, thinking he was giving Sanchez a lane, before tagging him. After White Sox manager Robin Ventura came out, crew chief Joe West decided to take a look to make sure Sanchez had a clear path. It took only 48 seconds to determine that he had.
14. When the decision had been upheld, Kluber asked to throw a couple warm-up pitches, but home plate umpire Rob Drake denied his request.
15. “I understand that replay is part of the game now,” Kluber said. “Tonight, I don't get the whole making-up-rules-as-we-go thing. Every other time I've been out there for a replay, I've waited until they finish the replay and then have thrown a couple pitches. All of a sudden, tonight I'm told that you're only allowed to throw pitches while they're reviewing the play. If the umpires are making up stuff as we're going, then the system needs to be looked at, I think.”
16. Kluber said Drake didn’t make it clear during the review that’s when Kluber needed to be warming up. “Nope. The only thing he said to me was, when I asked if I could throw a couple, he said, 'No.' I started asking the other umpire why, and he came out and told me if I wanted to throw, I should've done it while they were doing the replay,” Kluber said.
17. Kluber has taken issue with replay before. In the eighth inning of an Aug. 15 home game against the Baltimore Orioles, a lengthy controversy ensued over whether Adam Jones was hit by a Kluber pitch or by his own foul ball. In an excessive display of gamesmanship, Orioles manager Buck Showalter managed to delay the action to try to throw Kluber off his rhythm. Eventually the umpires learned the incident wasn’t reviewable.
18. After going through that, Kluber didn’t want to start throwing too soon, especially when he was well over 100 pitches.
19. “I didn’t think a couple of pitches would make the crowd go away,” Francona said of a crowd of 11,976. “I thought some common sense would have prevailed a little bit. He just said that’s the way he’s done it. We said, ‘That’s a new one on us.’ I could have gone out and argued, but that would have made it go on longer.”
20. Kluber was outspoken about the warm-up pitch issue, at least outspoken for him. “If it's one of those four or five minute replays, what's the point of throwing as soon as they go over there and put the headset on?” Kluber said. “I've had instances where I've been out there this year and they're standing out there for three, four, five minutes. Am I just supposed to figure out how long a replay is going to take? I'm not even sure why they looked at that play, to be honest.”
21. Asked if that threw him off, Kluber said, “No, t didn't affect me. I just don't understand the whole making-it-up-as-we-go thing.”
22. Perez mistakenly thought Ventura challenged the play. It was the first time Perez had been involved in a replay.
23. Asked if he was surprised they looked at it, Perez said, “Yeah, I was. I even asked the umpire, ‘If I catch the ball first can I go at him?’ He said, ‘Yeah, you can.’ I gave him the lane. I was making sure I had the ball first. I got it and went forward a couple steps and tagged him.”
24. Perez is sure he gave Sanchez a path. “Yeah, I did," he said. "But now that happened to me, when I get the ball I’m going to make sure I go right at him. I’m not going to try to like tag him, I’m just going to go right at him.”