Corey Kluber, the Cleveland Indians’ two-time Cy Young Award winner, gave up four runs in 4.2 innings to the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS to increase his postseason ERA to 10.20 in his last four starts.
Unfortunately for the Cleveland Indians, Corey Kluber doesn’t seem to be over his postseason struggles from last season.
Kluber, the Indians’ 20-game winner in the regular season, gave up four earned runs in just 4.2 innings as Cleveland fell 7-2 to the Houston Astros in the first game of their American League Division Series on Friday.
The form shown by the two-time Cy Young winner the past two postseasons is far from the pitcher who made his playoff debut in 2016. Kluber that year had a 0.89 ERA in his first five postseason starts to lead the Indians to within a game of the World Series. In his last four postseason starts, however, dating back to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, his ERA has jumped to 10.20.
After breezing through the first three innings without giving up a hit against Houston, Kluber was forced to work in the fourth. Alex Bregman led off the inning with a home run, then Yuli Gurriel drew an eight-pitch walk and came around to score on Josh Reddick’s single to right.
Kluber threw 35 pitches in the inning but came back to pitch the fifth and gave up home runs to the first two batters, George Springer and Jose Altuve. He was finally pulled with two outs and the Astros leading 4-0.
Kluber blamed his struggles on his failure to keep the ball down against the dangerous Astros lineup.
“Really just left the balls elevated, out over the middle of the plate for the home runs,” he said after the game. “Definitely the wrong three guys to do that too. You got to be able to keep the ball in the ballpark in these games.”
The loss wasn’t the start to their postseason that Cleveland was looking for. After giving up a 3-1 lead in the 2016 World Series and a 2-0 lead in the ALDS to the New York Yankees last year, the Indians hoped to rebound from those collapses this year after winning the AL Central for the third straight season. To do that they added new pieces to their roster, including acquiring former AL MVP Josh Donaldson from Toronto in August.
Kluber’s struggles on Friday, however, had to bring flashbacks to their loss a year ago. Manager Terry Francona, though, says this game is more a reflection of how strong the defending World Series champions are then about any lingering effects from a year ago.
“Last year has nothing to do with today,” Francona said. “They’re a good team. He made a couple of mistakes. They made him pay for it.”
Astros starter Justin Verlander was everything Kluber was not in Game 1. He didn’t give up a hit until the sixth inning when he was pulled by manager A.J. Hinch at the first sign of trouble. Verlander finished the game with seven strikeouts in 5.1 innings, giving up two earned runs.
The Indians will look to rebound on Saturday, sending Carlos Carrasco to the mound against Gerrit Cole. Unlike Kluber, Carrasco was stellar in the postseason last year, throwing 5.2 shutout innings against the Yankees. The Indians have to hope he brings that form again to these playoffs if they’re to avoid a 2-0 series hole.