The Cleveland Indians are one win away from winning the World Series, and it’s the pitching staff that has gotten them there.
It may only have come on a swinging bunt and thanks to a misplay, but when the Cleveland Indians scored their second run of the second inning to take a 2-1 in Game Four of the World Series on Saturday night, one could almost feel the collective panic that settled over Cubs fans at Wrigley Field.
A lead has meant one thing for Cleveland all postseason, and that is Andrew Miller. The Indians have followed the same blueprint from the division series to the league championship series and now to within one win of clinching the World Series and their first championship in 68 years. Get lead, turn it over to the bullpen, let Miller and company dominate, celebrate a W.
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And those Ws have come with regularity, to the tune of a 10-2 record in the playoffs for the Tribe. To say that the pitching staff has been a key to this October run would be an understatement the size of Joe Buck’s love for Kyle Schwarber.
Consider the following: without the club’s second and third starters, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, Cleveland’s rotation has yielded just 11 earned runs in 59 innings pitched, good for a 1.68 earned run average. Staff ace Corey Kluber has gone 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA in 30.1 innings of work, going on short rest twice.
“He’s shouldering a lot of load right now. He has been for a long time. That’s what an ace does. I think he’s that guy. He’s proven that.”
That ERA for Kluber is the second-best in postseason history for any pitcher with a minimum of 30 innings. The right-hander also has 35 strikeouts to just eight walks, which equates to a healthy 10.38 strikeouts per nine innings, and puts him in a tie with Orel Hershiser for the most in one postseason in franchise history.
The Indians as a staff have struck out at least eight batters in their last 13 playoff games, which is the longest streak in Major League Baseball history. In addition to Kluber, Miller has broken the MLB record for punchouts by a reliever in a single postseason, with 29 in his 17 innings of relief.
As good as the Tribe’s pitching has been throughout the postseason, it has ramped up to a different level in the World Series. Through 36 innings, the team has a 1.50 ERA against the third-highest scoring team in all of baseball in 2016.
Cleveland’s arms have worked ahead in the count consistently. In the three games the team has won, only four walks have been issued and only 12 2-1 counts have been reached. Only in Game Two, which Chicago won, did the Indians have command issues, walking eight collectively.
As a result, the Cubs are slashing just .204/.273/.299 in the series, and have gone a meager 5-for-37 (.135) with no extra base hits and 17 strikeouts with runners in scoring position. The Tribe’s pitching has buckled down in the most high-leverage situations.
Trevor Bauer, who will be on the bump in Game Five with an opportunity to deliver a championship to Cleveland, should have a fresh arm despite pitching on short rest. The 25-year old threw only 26 pitches in his lone ALCS start and 87 in Game Two of the World Series. He is the one pitcher on the Indians’ staff that hasn’t had a WOW moment yet in the postseason. The Tribe is hoping that moment will happen on Sunday night.