Kenny Powers, the mullet-wearing protagonist of HBO’s Eastbound and Down, once said, “Sometimes when you bring the thunder, you get lost in the storm.”
Maybe KP was foreshadowing Corey Kluber’s disappointing start to the 2015 season.
The Cleveland Indians ace was unstoppable last year. He edged out Felix Hernandez for the American League Cy Young and guided the Tribe to its first playoff appearance in seven years.
Unfortunately, 2015 hasn’t been nearly as kind to Kluber. The right-hander fell to 0-4 Saturday after getting roughed up by Toronto. He allowed eight hits, which was actually an improvement from his previous outing when he got knocked around for 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Kluber, owner of an embarrassing 7.27 ERA over his last three starts (opponents have hit .397 against him during that stretch), attributes his recent slump to sequencing. “I’m not doing that good of a job of keeping guys honest,” he said. “For the most part, guys are kind of hanging out over the plate … So, when you do make a mistake, it’s kind of magnified.”
It’s a long season, which means Kluber has plenty of time to turn things around. If you recall, Clayton Kershaw carried a 4.43 ERA through his first four starts last season. Kershaw went on to win National League MVP.
Kluber will try to redeem himself Thursday when he takes the mound against Kansas City. The Indians, a trendy World Series pick at the start of the year, now sit in last place in the American League Central.
Gordon Goes Nuts
While the Indians are heading in a downward spiral, the needle is pointing up for Miami. The Marlins have won four straight and nine out of ten to climb all the way back to .500.
Surprisingly, Giancarlo Stanton has taken a backseat to Dee Gordon. The 27-year-old lifted his average to .440 Saturday after a 3-for-3 night against the Phillies. Gordon walked twice and stole a pair of bases. Only Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton (13) has more thefts than Gordon (11) this year.
Dee, son of former Red Sox closer Tom Gordon, has been especially sharp over his last eight games. Gordon has hit safely in each of those contests while sporting a nifty .645 average (20-for-31). He’s on pace for 297 hits, 35 more than Ichiro Suzuki’s single-season record.
Speaking of Ichiro, the guy can still rake. Even at 41, Gordon’s teammate is still hitting a respectable .266. Suzuki is 139 hits away from 3,000, a number he could realistically reach in the next two seasons.
Marlins starter Dan Haren outdueled Cole Hamels Saturday, limiting the Phillies to four hits over six shutout frames. That gives Haren a 3-1 record to go with a 2.70 ERA. And to think, he almost hung it up at the end of last season.
Luck of the Giants
In baseball, luck will always win out, and nobody knows this better than the San Francisco Giants. To win three titles in five years, you need to catch some breaks along the way. Exhibit A: Saturday’s game against the Angels.
The Angels were in the midst of a fierce rally, putting runners on first and third with two outs. Mike Scioscia, always a forward thinker, decided to pinch-run Taylor Featherston for David Freese. That backfired when Matt Joyce’s line drive struck Featherston on the leg, ending the game in bizarre fashion.
Losing a game by hitting a ball off your teammate is unusual, but not unprecedented. The same thing happened to the Pirates on June 27, 2010 when Jose Tabata’s grounder made contact with Pedro Alvarez.
Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford also went deep on Saturday. Despite being left-handed, Crawford actually hits better against lefties. He’s hitting .333 against southpaws this year, including 2-for-4 Saturday against Hector Santiago and Cesar Ramos. Since the start of 2014, Crawford has hit .322 against left-handers (174 at-bats) and only .212 against righties (392 at-bats).
Show Me the Money
Saturday, the rich did not get richer. The new, fiscally conservative Yankees have drawn a line in the sand and they’re daring A-Rod to cross it.
Alex Rodriguez reached an important milestone Friday night in Boston, tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run list. Tying Mays was supposed to entitle Rodriguez to a $6 million bonus, but the Yankees had previously threatened to withhold the money, claiming the milestone wasn’t marketable because of A-Rod’s link to PEDs. GM Brian Cashman confirmed this decision on Saturday and now the MLB Players Association is sure to file a grievance on A-Rod’s behalf.
According to Baseball Reference, Rodriguez has earned over $378 million during his career. It’s not like A-Rod is going to start buying his clothes off the discount rack if he loses the grievance. But it can’t help his already strained relationship with the Yankees’ front office.
On a happier note, at least if you’re a Yankees fan, the Bronx Bombers remain in first place in the AL East.
American League Quick Hits: Top catching prospect Blake Swihart played well in his first game for the Red Sox. He went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk, scoring on Mookie Betts’ seventh-inning double ... We’ll be seeing a lot of Swihart over the next few months as Red Sox manager John Farrell announced Ryan Hanigan (fractured wrist) will be out through the All-Star break … The Red Sox watched the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight at David Ortiz’s house. Mayweather won by unanimous decision … Dellin Betances earned his first save of the year Saturday against Boston. He’s punched out 25 hitters in 14 2/3 innings. Unreal … The A’s bullpen has been a farce. After giving up five runs Saturday against Texas, Oakand’s bullpen now has the fourth-highest ERA in baseball (4.56). Last year, A’s relievers had the league’s third-lowest ERA (2.91) … They say three’s a crowd. Well good, because Torii Hunter hit home run No. 333 of his career Saturday against the White Sox. He’s got more threes than Steph Curry … The Astros have won nine straight and now own the best record in the American League. Their longest win streak last year was seven … Jose Altuve had his streak of multi-hit games snapped at ten. That’s the longest streak since Bernie Williams had a ten-gamer in 2002. Altuve still launched a three-run homer, so it wasn’t all bad … Nine homers were hit in Saturday’s Mariners/Astros game. Seattle hit three in one inning and still managed to lose by seven runs …Newly-acquired Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton (shoulder surgery) will play three innings of extended spring training on Monday. He’ll serve as the DH … Michael Bourn was scratched with a strained neck on Saturday. Tyler Holt got the start in his place.
National League Quick Hits: Cardinals outfielder Peter Bourjos made a costly mistake by getting picked off second base in the 11th inning. Fortunately for Bourjos, Matt Carpenter let him off the hook with a walk-off single later that inning … The Pirates left 18 men on base in Saturday’s loss to St. Louis. That’s the most runners they’ve stranded since August 23, 1938. That game was against the Boston Bees … I guarantee your Friday wasn’t as bad as Jorge Rondon’s. The Rockies reliever allowed eight runs without recording a single out. And the game was at Petco Park, perhaps the most pitcher-friendly venue in baseball. Rondon was designated for assignment on Saturday … Aaron Hill belted his first home run of the year on Saturday. It was his first bomb since August 15th … Balls have been flying out of Dodger Stadium this year. In 14 games, the Dodgers and their opponents have combined for a whopping 40 home runs … Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski lost his 13-game hitting streak on Saturday. It was the majors’ longest active streak … Mets outfielder John Mayberry Jr. batted first Saturday against Washington. The 6’6” Mayberry is tied for the second-tallest leadoff hitter of all-time. 6’7” Frank Howard hit leadoff in 1969 … Brewers stud Carlos Gomez returned to the lineup Saturday after missing 15 games with a strained hamstring. Don’t worry that he came out in the sixth inning. That was the plan all along … Nats third baseman Anthony Rendon (knee) suffered a setback Saturday during a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg. He couldn’t get loose before the game and had to be scratched … Christian Yelich (back) is set to begin a rehab assignment with High-A Jupiter. Yelich expects to be activated Thursday against the Giants … The Phillies got smoked Saturday but at least they won an appeal. Ichiro was called out for not properly touching second base.