For Corey Kluber, the mindset is all about improving from one start to the next. After good starts, complacency isn’t an issue while he also isn’t one to get hung up on bad starts.
He brought that mentality to the New York Yankees, and even after four starts in which he failed to pitch five innings, he knew he was getting closer to putting it together. Facing the Baltimore Orioles – a team he has a career 2.92 ERA against – he recorded 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a 5-1 win on Tuesday.
“He was really sharp,” manager Aaron Boone said via Zoom. “I thought the breaking ball was good. I thought the cut fastball was really good, and then he worked some pitches off of that.”
The win was Kluber’s first since April of 2019, and the outing was his longest since that game. Still, he isn’t one to sit around and reflect on his journey back to full health.
What matters most is his progression forward as he continues to build back to a semblance of what he was before injuries.
“It’s always a work in progress,” Kluber said. “Even after a game like tonight where the results end up being good, I think you can still look at things and find out where to improve.”
Tuesday’s start was a continuation of his previous start against the Atlanta Braves last Wednesday. He pitched well for four innings that night, but he lost control of the strike zone in the fifth inning, failing to finish it.
One area where he will look to build on is his aggressiveness in the strike zone. He identifies that he has managed to do that but without consistency in his first four starts. He found that consistency Tuesday night.
“I think he was really just pounding the zone with everything: cutter, two-seam, slider, changeup.” catcher Kyle Higashioka said. “I think the big thing for us tonight was definitely making sure that we were really pounding the zone with these hitters, and I think it really paid off.”
The result was two walks in his 6 2/3 innings after allowing 11 in his first 15 innings of the season. His consistency in the zone with his cutter and sinker also did a good job of missing the Orioles’ barrels. He struck out five batters and induced four groundouts and flyouts each.
In his mind, not needing to worry about which pitch to throw allows him to focus on the execution. With Higashioka behind the plate, he got what wanted. Knowing they both did their homework on how to attack each hitter allowed the duo to develop a great rhythm. Kluber didn’t shake Higashioka off once the entire night.
Tuesday brought some change to the Yankees as they traded Mike Tauchman. Perhaps the day also brought on a more symbolic change as Corey Kluber looks to build off his best start with the team and blossom into the pitcher the front office hoped they signed in the offseason.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images