CHICAGO — Nationally, this postseason may have been a coming-out party for Corey Kluber, but to the Indians, that’s just a matter of everyone catching up to what they’ve always known.
“I know how good he is. I’m not sure the whole world does,” Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway said.
He paused and added: “Well, they probably do now.”
After Kluber’s two starts in this World Series, which the Indians led three games to one entering Sunday night’s Game 5 at Wrigley Field, that probably is safe to say.
Kluber followed up a brilliant performance in Game 1, when he threw six shutout innings in a 6-0 Indians victory, with another terrific outing in Game 4, a 7-2 Cleveland victory in which he allowed one run in six innings on three days’ rest.
The victory improved the 30-year-old — nicknamed “Klubot’’ mostly because of his steady, unflappable demeanor — to 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA this postseason. If this series goes the distance, Kluber will pitch in Game 7, again on three days’ rest.
“He’s certainly showing everybody how good he is,” reliever Andrew Miller said. “He might be a little bit under the radar for some reason, but he’s as good as they come. He’s been dominant.”
Chicago native Jason Kipnis, who said he lived “a dream” hitting a late three-run homer to break open Game 4, found himself coming back to Kluber’s performance afterward.
“I’m happy on this kind of stage he’s finally getting the recognition that he’s due,” said Kipnis, who had three hits. “There’s a lot of people, even after a Cy Young Award, that really don’t know much about him. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. I’m happy people are starting to know his name.”
After Kluber went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and won the Cy Young Award in 2014, he was 9-16 in 2015 but had a 3.49 ERA. He went 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 2016. In those three seasons, he struck out 741 in 672 2⁄3 innings and had a 1.07 WHIP.
Kluber was 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two starts against the Yankees in 2016. After the second of those, a 5-2 Cleveland victory at the Stadium Aug. 6 in which Kluber allowed two runs in eight innings, the Yankees threw praise his way.
“One of the best in baseball,” Mark Teixeira said that afternoon. “Throws every pitch for strikes, hits the corners, changes speeds.”
Kluber is best known for his two-seamer and curveball, but Miller said all of the righthander’s pitches stand out when he’s on.
“His breaking ball’s as good of a breaking ball as there is in the game, he throws that come-back sinker, he cuts the ball a little bit, he locates well,” Miller said. “Hitters don’t know which way the ball’s going to go and they don’t know how hard it’s going to move. It’s impossible to predict, it’s impossible to guess, because he commands everything so well. And he’s such a competitor. He’s so focused on every pitch, every at-bat. He never lets his foot off the gas. Really just an incredible pitcher.”
In many ways, the Indians were more impressed with Kluber’s work in Game 4 than in Game 1. In the first game, Kluber struck out a World Series-record eight batters in the first three innings en route to nine overall. Pitching on short rest for the second time in his career — the first was in Game 4 of the ALCS against Toronto — Kluber wasn’t quite as sharp with his pitches in Game 4 but still was more than the Cubs could handle.
“Kluber was tremendous,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “I thought he had to work early. He didn’t have his best breaking ball. I thought later in the game he sort of defined it, actually. I think he’s proving over and over just how good he is.”