Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona was smart to make Corey Kluber the starter for Game 2 of the ALDS, giving Trevor Bauer the start in Game 1.
The sky seemed to be falling on September 26 when Corey Kluber was removed from his start after just four innings. After losing both Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, losing Kluber may have been the end of the Cleveland Indians’ hopes of a World Series title.
But a strained quad was all the damage done, allowing Kluber to be deemed healthy enough to pitch in the postseason.
With Kluber being the ace all season, and a Cy Young award contender, him pitching in Game 1 seemed to be a certainty, until Terry Francona named Trevor Bauer the starter for Thursday’s opener. While fans may want to see Kluber go out and give the team a great chance to win in Game 1, there is no need to rush him back to start on Thursday.
Trevor Bauer is a capable replacement, even though Carrasco or Salazar would be the ideal options for this start. But no matter who starts, things are not as simple as they are in the regular season.
Playoff baseball features perhaps the most unpredictable postseason in all of sports. Starting pitching is important, but if a pitcher allows more than one run in an inning at the start of a game, a manager may get the bullpen up to avoid any chances of a total meltdown. When everything is on the line with every pitch, there is no time to hope a player can turn it around.
So while it would indeed be nice to have Kluber open the series, there is the chance he may not be fully healthy, which could lead to a short start anyway. Also, saving him for Game 2 means a Game 5 start would be on the normal rest, as opposed to if he started Game 1 on Thursday and was set to start Game 4 just four days later in Boston.
Terry Francona also knows that his team is much better at home this season, so he can trust that his offense will fare better for Bauer at home at Game 1, as opposed to if this game was at Fenway.
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At the same time, many of these games could turn in to bullpen battles, as many playoff games do. Saving Kluber for Game 2 could make him an option out of the bullpen for the final three games of the series, if it goes five games.
With the combination of a strong bullpen and a great offense, Francona knows he doesn’t need to push Kluber’s limits with a Thursday start, especially after already losing two of the team’s top starting pitchers.
He also can call on Kluber in Games 3 or 4 out of the bullpen if necessary, even if only to retire one batter. Doing this may mean he could not start a potential Game 5, but he could still be an option out of the bullpen once again.
Francona has plenty of playoff experience and knows what he is doing, so it is hard to argue with his decision to start Kluber in Game 2. Questions will only begin to arise if Kluber is a potential option out of the bullpen later in the series, and is passed on in favor of a regular reliever, who ultimately loses the game.
This is all a lot of speculation, so for now, fans can be happy Kluber is healthy and that he will be giving the Indians a great chance to head to Boston potentially up 2-0 in the series.