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Assessing AL Cy Young candidates: Kluber overtaking Sale

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Bryan Mcwilliam

33m ago

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

When Corey Kluber stepped off the mound after hurling a complete game shutout against the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night at Progressive Field, he officially etched his name into the record books.

Kluber earned the victory in impressive fashion, notching the Indians’ historic 20th consecutive win and tying them with the 2002 Oakland Athletics for the longest such streak ever in the American League.

“I think everybody kind of looks up to him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said during a press conference Tuesday after Kluber’s dominant performance. “Because of the way he carries himself, the professional that he is. It’s hard not to … It’s easy to talk about Kluber because he’s so good.”

While Cleveland’s streak has been one of the most impressive of all time, and one of the brightest and most-followed storylines of 2017, Kluber’s dominance since returning from a lower back injury in June has also been something to watch, as he’s pitched his way into top spot for the American League Cy Young award.

While the Yankees’ Luis Severino and Indians’ Carlos Carrasco have had terrific years, Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox may be Kluber’s only real competition for the Cy and even that is becoming harder to defend as the ‘Klu-Bot’ continues to pitch like a man possessed.

After an opening month of the season that hardly resembled the Kluber Indians fans had come to know and love, it appeared like Sale wasn’t going to have any competition for the annual honor awarded to the league’s best pitcher.

PITCHER MONTH IP H ER BB SO
Corey Kluber April 34 1/3 31 16 12 37
Chris Sale April 37 2/3 23 6 6 52

Upon returning from injury, however, Kluber has lost just two decisions, pitched three complete games (five total during the season), dropped his ERA to an American League-leading 2.44, his WHIP to 0.87, and has – without argument – been the best starting pitcher in the AL since the beginning of August.

Sale, on the other hand, has had his ups and downs since the calendar flipped to August – including two games where he allowed seven and six earned runs to Kluber’s Indians – and appears to be finishing his season in a similar downward swing, as he has in past campaigns.

PITCHER MONTH IP H ER BB SO
Corey Kluber Aug/Sept 70 39 13 7 82
Chris Sale Aug/Sept 47.1 44 21 11 67

Sale generated most of the Cy Young hype throughout the season with dominating strikeout numbers (278 in 195 2/3, eight consecutive games with double-digit strikeouts) and fan mania in Boston, but Kluber’s excellence is undeniably a major contributor to the Indians’ historic streak and what could become a second consecutive division title.

Don’t get me wrong, Sale deserves any winning votes he receives and still has a chance of winning his first Cy Young with a strong finish, but the 31-year-old Indians ace has been unreal and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Kluber not only proved Tuesday that he should be awarded the second Cy Young of his career – he won the award in 2014 – but that he may be the best pitcher in baseball not named Clayton Kershaw.

And even that can be debated.

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