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July 31, 2014

What You Need to Know

July 31, 2014

by Chris Mosch


The Wednesday Takeaway
Fans who bought tickets to last night’s scheduled battle between Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber were greeted by a Progressive Field setting that should have been considered a pitching aficionado’s paradise. King Felix entered the night on a stretch so dominant that he was on the verge of setting a modern MLB record. Armed with an arsenal of nasty secondary pitches, Kluber has broken through this season as a bona fide ace and was a start removed from the most impressive outing of his career.

The stage for pitching mastery was perfect and the duel proved to live up to expectations.

Kluber flirted with perfection last week, but last night it was Hernandez who cruised through the first four innings without allowing a runner to reach base. Hernandez has increased the use of his changeup this season, but he opted for his devastating off-speed pitch at even greater extremes last night. He went to the changeup 42 percent of the time—his second-highest usage in a start this season—and was able to generate a half dozen swing-and-misses with the offering.

The perfect game didn’t make it out of the fifth inning, as Hernandez ran into his lone hiccup of the evening. Carlos Santana worked a six-pitch walk to lead off the inning. Hernandez dug Lonnie Chisenhall to a 2-2 count, but his fifth pitch of the at-bat caught too much of the plate and the Cleveland third baseman ripped a double into the right-center field gap to break up the no-no and advance Santana to third. Nick Swisher was next to take his hacks, and the veteran slugger chopped a ball to the right side of the infield. Logan Morrison failed in his attempt to make the play, but Robinson Cano made a nice snag to his left. The only problem was that Hernandez had barely budged from the mound, allowing Swisher to slide in headfirst with an unexpected infield single.

David Murphy bounced into a fielder’s choice that kept the bases loaded, but Yan Gomes broke the scoreless tie with a double down the right field line to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead.

Hernandez minimized the damage from that point forward, striking out five and allowing only two more Indians to reach base before departing after seven innings. With yet another superb start under his belt, the King’s recent stretch of brilliance has now reached historic heights.

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