By Glen Sparks
They say that a record is made to be broken. Even a Dazzy Vance record.
Cleveland Indians’ ace Corey Kluber struck out 18 St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday evening at Progressive Field in Cleveland. No pitcher has ever fanned that many Redbirds in one game. Dazzy Vance held the previous mark with 17.
Vance enjoyed his big game on July 20, 1925. The Brooklyn ace set his career-high mark that day in a 10-inning 4-3 win. Vance also tied the 20th century single-game strikeout mark. The Chicago Cubs’ Jack Pfiester punched out 17 hitters in 17 innings on May 30, 1906.
In 1925, Vance fanned 221 batters to lead the National League for the fourth straight season. He would go on to finish first in K’s for the next three years, giving him seven strikeout titles in his career and ensuring his place as one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history.
Kluber, meanwhile, continues to make his mark in baseball. Like Vance, Kluber is a late-bloomer. Dazzy really didn’t get things going until his age-31 season in 1922. Kluber, out of Coppell, Texas, near Dallas, is 29 years old. He attended Steton University in central Florida (home of the Hatters, of course) and didn’t make it to the majors until he was 25.
Kluber pitched a bit in his first two seasons (2011 and 2012), with some crummy results. In 2013, he broke out with an 11-5 won-loss mark and a 3.85 ERA (99 ERA+). Last season, he really hit the mark, going 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA (155 ERA+) and taking home the A.L. Cy Young Award.
The 2015 season began in a rough way for Kluber. He went 0-5 in his first seven starts with a 5.04 ERA. Then on Wednesday, he pitched one of the best games in baseball history. The Cardinals’ Jhonny Peralta broke up Kluber’s no-hit bid with a single to center field with two outs in the seventh inning.
Kluber’s 18 strikeouts tied Bob Feller for the most strikeouts in one game by an Indians pitcher and were the most by any pitcher in the Majors since the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ben Sheets fanned 18 on May 16, 2004. He certainly mixed things up. Everything was working against the Cardinals. Kluber struck out six batters on curveballs, four on his four-seam fastball, four on his sinker and three on his slider. Kluber’s game score of 98 was the best in history for any pitcher in an eight-inning performance. (50 is average.) The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayon Kershaw is the last pitcher to exceed a 98 game score, recording a 102 on June 18 last season in his 15-strikout, no-walk no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium.
Kerry Wood is the only other pitcher with a game of 18 or more strikeouts, no walks and no more than one hit. Wood did that for the Cubs, against the Houston Astros, on May 6, 1998. He went the whole way, gave up a hit and struck out 20.
Cleveland Manager Terry Francona pulled Kluber after eight innings and 113 pitches. The starter had to watch Cody Allen, with a high-flying ERA of about 9.00, get the final three outs and preserve a 2-0 masterpiece.