CLEVELAND — The Indians' starting rotations have been inrarefied air the past few years. Now, in one way, they’ve found a tier of their own.
With his fourth strikeout in Saturday night’s game, Mike Clevinger reached 200 for the season, a milestone for any pitcher. But with it, he became the fourth starter in the Indians’ rotation this season to strike out at least 200 hitters.
It is the first such rotation in baseball history. Clevinger, in the moment, was simply pumped up because it was the first out in an inning in which he already had two runners on base. He had to step off the mound for a moment before continuing.
“Yeah, it was a big moment in the game. At that point I was really fired up we got the strikeout and I know I had runners on first and second with no outs,” Clevinger said. “So I was fired up about that. Then I looked up and realized what happened, and I was like, ‘Oh, gosh, that is the 200th,” and I had to step back and I wanted to get locked back in before I got back on the mound.”
Corey Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer in his breakout season joined Clevinger, who has enjoyed a breakout year of his own to add to a talent-rich rotation.
“I mean, it’s special,” Clevinger said. “A lot of people are going to say it’s our division or whatever the case may be, but it’s a ton of work, a lot of effort, and a lot of process that went into all of our stories and the way we got here. I’m just proud to be a part of this and be a part of this starting rotation. It took a while to get into, and you can see why.”
For the rotation as a whole, it’s another accomplishment for a group that has been one of the league’s best for the past several seasons. And, assuredly, it's one of the best the Indians have ever put together since their inception in 1901.
“Guys like Josh [Tomlin] and Corey really kind of establish a culture and expectations, not only when you're on the mound, but in between starts,” Cody Allen said. “Those guys fall in nicely, man. They take care of business. That group right there, they're as competitive as it gets. When you have talent like that, a great work ethic, good routine and competitiveness, it's going to happen.”
Allen hasn’t been on the mound much in games recently, but it’s all according to plan.
Allen has appeared in only one game since Sept. 12 despite having a strong couple of weeks after making a key mechanical adjustment in which he started focusing on getting the ball out of his glove a split-second earlier in his delivery.
The time away has been a coordinated effort to allow Allen to pitch in a controlled environment while also allowing him to relax a bit. As he was trying to figure out his mechanical issue, Allen had a heavy workload, one the Indians are now monitoring.
Allen and the Indians also did something similar the past two seasons. It just wasn’t severe, as in 2016 the division was clinched much later and last year the Indians were playing for home-field advantage. They’re already locked in the No. 3 seed this season.
Allen and manager Terry Francona mapped out a plan.
“Yeah, everything's good,” Allen said, dismissing any concerns of an injury. "We had some struggles there in August and I feel like I've thrown the ball a lot better in September. But it's not only those innings in the appearances in September, but I was throwing a lot in between appearances, just ironing stuff out. So, I was working a lot and that started to catch up with me a little bit. Going into that last series against Detroit where we clinched, I could feel it kind of catching up with me a little bit. I wasn't recovering as well as I hoped.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.