May 13, 2015 – Kluber Shaves Beard, Strikes Out 18 in Eight Innings
The start of the 2015 season had been rough on Corey Kluber. After winning the AL Cy Young award in 2014, he lost his first five decisions of the 2015 campaign. Of his eight starts so far in 2015, the Indians had lost seven. By mid-May many fans and commentators were worried about their presumed ace pitcher.
The Cardinals were in Cleveland for an interleague series and sent veteran pitcher John Lackey to the mound for this Wednesday evening contest against the normally hirsute Kluber. When he came to the mound clean-shaven, everyone assumed that in a fit of baseball superstition he was trying to change his luck.
Kluber got leadoff hitter Kolten Wong to strike out swinging on five pitches to start the game. Matt Carpenter flied out to center. Kluber hit left fielder Matt Holliday with the first pitch of his at bat. It was perhaps his only major lapse in control. Former Indian Jhonny Peralta stuck out swinging to end the inning.
Lackey got out to a rough start, walking Jason Kipnis on four pitches right out of the gate, followed by a six-pitch walk to Carlos Santana. After a Michael Brantley strikeout, right fielder Brandon Moss hit a liner down the right field line allowing Kipnis to score from second. David Murphy then knocked a ground ball single to right, bringing Santana home.
With a 2-0 lead established, the rest of the night was the Corey Kluber show. He racked up a franchise-record eighteen strikeouts in eight innings of work. He recorded at least one strikeout in each inning pitched, with 1-2-3 innings in the 3rd and 4th.
He took a no-hitter into the top of the 7th, when Jhonny Peralta poked a single into center field.
He threw 113 pitches in the game, 74 of them were strikes. With his pitch count climbing, the no-hitter broken up, and Cody Allen ready to slam the door, Kluber did not return to the mound for the top of the 9th. Cody Allen retired the side in order on 11 pitches and earned the save.
In Indians history, only Bob Feller had eighteen strikeouts in a nine-inning game (Game 152 of 1938, which was a 4-1 LOSS to the Tigers!). Luis Tiant holds the single-game strikeout record for the Tribe, but his 19 Ks came in a 10-inning victory over the Twins (Game 82 of 1968).
Kluber would go on to put together one of the most amazing months of pitching in Indians history, with 60 strikeouts in the month of May. Sam McDowell holds the record for most strikeouts in a calendar month with 76. However, McDowell pitched in a four-man rotation prior to the institution of the designated hitter. Normalized for innings pitched, Kluber recorded 12.56 Ks per 9 innings in May 2014. McDowell’s best month was 12.35 K/9 in September of 1966.
When asked in a post-game interview if he shaved his beard to change his luck, Corey stated, “I did it for Mother’s Day.”