[do action=”brightcove-video” videoid=”3705556772001″/]
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” and 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 shutout this season.
Before the game, McClendon talked about Kluber’s ability to dominate, saying: “He’s been tough for a while,” McClendon said. “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 only took two 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 on the season and lower his earned run average to 2.61. It was the eighth time in his last 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 fourth inning and advanced to second base on an error from David Murphy.
“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 too. 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.
“He threw the ball extremely well,” Seager said. “It was a tough loss.
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.
[do action=”brightcove-video” videoid=”3705613776001″/]
“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 – where he gave up two runs.
He was perfect threw four innings, but walked Carlos Santana to start the inning.
“I just couldn’t throw a strike there,” he said.
Lonnie Chisenhall then hammered a line drive to right field. It should have been a single, but Endy Chavez’s angle was off and the ball rolled to the wall. Santana failed to score on the play, giving the Mariners a brief break.
Hernandez then made the mistake of assuming that Nick Swisher’s ground ball to the right side was getting through for a hit. Cano made a beautiful stop, but Hernandez didn’t cover first on the play.
“That was my fault,” he said. “I should have done that. I thought it was going through. I should have known Cano was there and he has good range.”
With bases loaded, Hernandez was able to get David Murphy to hit a ground ball to first base. Logan Morrison fired home to get Santana at the plate. With one out, a ground ball could end the inning without a run.
Hernandez got the ground ball, but Yan Gomes hit a soft ground ball just inside the first base bag and past Morrison for a double.
“It was a fastball off the plate and he just stuck his bat out, unbelievable,” Hernandez said. “That was luck right there.”
Cleveland scratched another run across with a fielder’s choice, but Hernandez kept the damage to 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 and keep doing what I’m doing.”
In that span of starts, he was credit 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.”