Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber seized the city's sports spotlight from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers' postseason run with an 18-strikeout performance in a 2-0 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.
Kluber did not allow a hit until the top of the seventh inning and made some franchise history in the process on his way to eight scoreless frames, per the team's Twitter page:
MLB compiled a Vine of all of the strikeouts:
Statistician Joel Luckhaupt noted Kluber joined some elite company across baseball, while Jordan Bastian of MLB.com pointed out where Kluber stands in American League history:
Baseball writer Andrew Baggarly was impressed with how efficient the Cleveland starter was against the Cardinals lineup:
Matthew Pouliot of Rotoworld put Kluber's incredible performance into context, which earned the admiration of Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports:
ESPN's Jay Crawford praised Kluber's outing as well:
Some fans naturally wondered why Kluber didn't come out for the ninth inning and go for 20 strikeouts (which is the all-time MLB record for a single game), but Phil Rogers of MLB.com believed it wasn't worth the risk in May:
After the game Kluber described the big performance, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com): "Any time that you throw your name in there with Bob Feller, that's obviously very humbling and a great accomplishment. Moreso important is obviously getting the win."
Kluber is the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, and his long-term health is certainly key for the Indians' postseason hopes this year and beyond. Cleveland still won the game and kept him relatively fresh heading into his next start.
Despite Kluber's presence in the rotation, the Indians are off to a disappointing start this season. It is difficult to put too much emphasis on one game in a long baseball schedule, but Cleveland needed a spark in the early going.
The fact that the ace delivered a gem against one of the best teams in baseball in front of the home fans is encouraging moving forward. Perhaps the rest of the rotation will follow his lead and turn in solid performances of their own.
A single outing can infuse energy throughout a clubhouse. That is exactly what the Indians need after a slow start, and they received just that from the best pitcher on their staff.