Chris Sale and Corey Kluber pitched against each other last night, and they each turned in performances that lived up to the Best Pitching Matchup of The Week billing that games featuring two great starters always get but often fail to live up to. In fact, Kluber vs. Sale represented everything that is great about this particular era of baseball.
Both Sale and Kluber were filthy last night. Kluber, fresh off last week’s 18-strikeout outing against the Cardinals, sat down 12 White Sox hitters while allowing just five hits and one run in nine innings. (Bear in mind that this was a hot lineup, having scored better than five runs per game over the past two weeks.) Ridiculously, he struck out the first five batters he faced:
Sale’s numbers were less gaudy, but he was just as stifling. Through eight innings, the Indians mustered just four hits and one run against him, and struck out seven times. All told, that’s 19 strikeouts, nine hits, and two earned runs in 17 combined innings. Fittingly, neither pitcher ended up getting the win. But who cares about wins when you’ve got two guys pitching like that? For that matter, who even cares about the game’s lack of dingers and runs?
Okay, fine, a lot of people care about the lack of dingers and runs, and with good reason. Baseball is currently experiencing a throttling of offensive firepower. League-wide slugging percentage is below .400 for the third straight year, for what would be the first time in a generation. Meanwhile, the league’s strikeout rate has gotten completely out of hand. It’s risen steadily since 2008, and last year’s mark of 7.7 was the highest in the game’s history. These aren’t great times for baseball fans who just want to watch some goons bash baseballs into and over the wall.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t cool shit happening every night in baseball, though, and Chris Sale vs. Corey Kluber was a stark reminder of that fact. Kluber’s inter-dimensional slider deserves to have songs written about it, and watching Sale, who pitches the way a rubber band snaps, spend eight innings throwing bowling balls at hitters is always a good time. It’s also worth mentioning that last night’s game, despite bleeding into the 10th inning, only lasted two and a half hours. Even the tide-turning run, scored on Adam Eaton’s mad dash to the plate, was a moment only made possible by the dominance of the two starters:
In the old days, when every game was a 12-7 brawl, that’s a play that would have probably never happened. Last night, though, it was a white-knuckle moment worth jumping out of your seat for. It was different, and it was fun.