Here are 20 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 8-4 win against the Minnesota Twins.
1. Corey Kluber has seemingly only gotten better as this season has progressed. He started the season treading water but since the calendar ticked over to June, he’s been in top form and is now putting together one of the best stretches of his career.
2. Kluber’s ERAs in April and May: 4.24 and 4.08. His ERAs in June, July and August entering Wednesday night: 2.19, 2.51, 2.20.
3. He tossed eight innings, allowing three runs and striking out 11 on Wednesday. He held the Twins to just one run until Brian Dozier hit a two-run home run in the eighth the game mostly in hand.
4. He’s now won seven straight decisions, the longest stretch of his career. He’s also won seven straight decisions at home, the longest stretch for an Indians pitcher since Cliff Lee won 10 straight in 2008. And he’s now thrown 10 consecutive quality starts, which is tied with Detroit’s Justin Verlander for the longest such streak in the majors.
5. And similar to when he won the 2014 American League Cy Young, he’s on track to finish the season strong if he continues this trend. Since the All-Star break, Kluber is 6-0 with a 2.04 ERA.
6. As has often been the case, it’s come back to Kluber’s meticulous throwing program between starts. When asked about Kluber’s second-half surge, both he and Indians manager Terry Francona mentioned the work he does on the four days between the times he takes the mound.
7. Said Kluber, “I think it’s just staying consistent between starts. There are going to be days where you don’t feel great, but just having the mindset that I need to go out there and do what I need to do and get my job done …”
8. Said Francona, “I agree. I think that it comes back to his work ethic and his routines and how consistent he is. This is the time of year, I think he's at 183 innings and he looks every bit as fresh as he did on opening day and that's not easy to do.”
9. Roberto Perez is thankful to be catching him, not hitting against him, saying, “I feel like guys got to get him early. If you don't get him early, I think he gets tougher and tougher by the innings. He just pounds the zone, man. He throws a lot of strikes. He makes guys uncomfortable going in and back and forth. It's tough, man. Thank God he's on our team.”
10. Kluber is in the middle of a crowded field for the AL Cy Young, as close to a dozen pitchers have reasonable cases to be named the AL’s top pitcher. He’s certainly keeping his name in the conversation.
11. Said Perez, “Of course. I think every night when he's pitching, when he's on the mound, I think something special is about to happen. That's how confident we are in him. Me, as a catcher back there, I'm really confident about him going seven, eight or nine innings every time he goes out there. It was nice. We got the win, so that was huge for us.”
12. Perci Garner was called up on Wednesday and made his major-league debut in the ninth. It wasn’t as smooth as he or the Indians would have liked, as he gave up two singles and a walk. With two outs, Bryan Shaw was called upon to finish the game.
13. It didn’t matter—the realization of a life-long dream had Garner in the best of spirits. Francona joked before the game that Garner probably already leads the league in smiles. It was evident why he said that Wednesday night.
14. Garner has the ball from his first major-league strikeout and then cracked some jokes about his debut, saying, “Yes, I have that. They actually kept a lot of balls for me. They kept my first walk. No, I'm joking [laughs]. They kept a couple of foul balls. They're going to do some cool things. I don't know what they're going to do, but they're going to decorate them for me. … Usually I give all of my stuff like that to my grandpa, but if he doesn't want it, maybe we'll start a room or something and we'll put all that stuff in there. I got my first Triple-A strikeout. We'll try to keep all of that stuff. Especially my wife, she seems like she likes to do that stuff.”
15. Garner said he had maybe 50-plus people in the stands for his debut game. It included his three-year-old son, Perci IV. Even if his son was more interested in his teammates.
16. Laughing, Garner said, “It's special because he doesn't really understand that I'm a big leaguer and that this has been my lifetime goal. At the same time, his eyes are still lighting up, no matter where I was pitching. He definitely enjoyed this. He's always really excited to see my teammates. That's the first thing he said. 'I want to meet your teammates!' I was like, 'You don't care about me?' He's like, 'Ehh, I don't know.' I try not to ask him whether he likes me or the teammates better. He chose the teammates.”
17. It was clear immediately that Garner will be one those players that fans love. He’s also a terrific story, bouncing back from being released as a minor leaguer by the Philadelphia Phillies and now getting to pitch in the big leagues.
18. When rosters expand in September, it often allows for some of these players with good stories who just want a chance. For one month, teams can carry some extra guys who get to appear in the big show. Garner might be one of the more fun players to follow this spring as the Indians contend for the division.
19. Garner also flashed some velocity, and as a ground ball hitter, the Indians for the most part liked what they saw.
20. Said Francona, “You know what? I know he wanted to finish the game but I thought he showed really good poise and he gave up leadoff hit and like a blooper and a walk, but he was around the plate with some really good stuff. I wish we had a couple more runs so we could have left him in there, but it's nice to get him in a game. I think every time he pitches it will be good for him. Now we have an off day tomorrow and he's not sitting around waiting to pitch, which I think was important for him. But he's got good stuff and he's probably still smiling. He's always smiling.”