On July 18, 1999, my parents had my relatives over for a family party. It was the summer going into eighth grade and I remember going out in the backyard and telling everyone David Cone had just thrown a perfect game. My grandfather thought I was confused, asking me if I was talking about David Wells’ perfect game the year before. No. Cone had just gone 27 up and 27 down against the Expos, and the Yankees had incredibly experienced perfect games in back-to-back seasons.
That was the last time a Yankee had thrown a no-hitter. It’s somehow been nearly 22 years since Scott Brosius caught the final out and Cone fell to his knees in astonishment. But on Wednesday night in Texas, Corey Kluber ended the drought, no-hitting the Rangers.
Kluber struck out nine and allowed one walk (to No. 8 hitter Charlie Culberson). He needed only 101 pitches to complete the game as he was able to locate his fastball, perfectly place his slider and get off-balanced swings on his changeup.
Having barely pitched over the last two years (36 2/3 innings since the start of 2019) and with 103 pitches being his high as a Yankee, I was worried if he ended the eighth at 100 or more pitches Aaron Boone might not let him pitch the ninth. I was sarcastically worried, though this is Boone we’re talking about and the Yankees only had a 2-0 lead after another lackadaisical night from the offense. As Kluber threw his ninth-inning warmup pitches, Aroldis Chapman was warming up in the bullpen.
Culberson led off the ninth against Kluber with a line drive that DJ LeMahieu had to pick on a short hop to get the out and prevent the official scorer from having a say on Kluber’s place in history. Then it was David Dahl pinch hitting for Jose Trevino and Dahl hit a line drive ticked for the right-field corner that Wade, who replaced an injured Ryan LaMarre, was able to run down for the second out. Lastly, it was Willie Calhoun, who has spent the series crushing extra-base hits, but Kluber was able to get him to ground out to a shifted Gleyber Torres for the final out.
In a game in which one team was no-hit, that wasn’t even the most memorable feat of the night. That’s because Tyler Wade hit a line-drive triple, barreling a ball to the gap (something I thought he was incapable of) to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Wade then came around to score the run that gave them a 2-0 lead. Wade, who entered the game for the injured Ryan LaMarre, was the difference between Kluber being on the winning end of a no-hitter or pitching nine no-hit innings and having nothing to show for it.
Back on Jan. 7, before Kluber became a Yankee, I wrote a blog titled Corey Kluber Is Perfect Low-Risk, High-Reward Candidate. In that blog, I wrote:
What I do see is the Yankees signing Corey Kluber. Rather, I want them to sign Kluber. I will go pick him up if needed.
Kluber faced three batters in 2020 before going down for the season. In 2019, he only threw 35 2/3 innings because of injury. But from 2014 through 2018 he was the best pitcher in the American League, pitching to a 2.85 ERA and 1.016 WHIP, while averaging 218 innings per season and 10.1 strikeouts-per-nine innings.
If the Yankees sign Kluber and he’s his 2018 self (20-8, 2.89 ERA, 0.991 WHIP, 9.3 K/9), well then they have Gerrit Cole, Kluber and potentially Luis Severino as their 1-2-3.
Over his last five starts, Kluber has looked every bit like his 2018 self. The Yankees have won all five of his starts, he has given the team length going at least 5 2/3 innings in all five starts and has pitched to this line: 35.1 IP, 21 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 9 BB, 36 K, 1 HR, 1.78 ERA, 0.850 WHIP.
I have never been worried about Kluber’s performance, just about his health. Even when Kluber didn’t look like himself early in the season, I still had an odd sense of confidence and comfort when he was on the mound, always thinking he would figure it out.
It took him nearly a month, but he has figured it out, and so far, the Yankees have hit on their low-risk, high-reward candidate.
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