Yankees: Aggressiveness was the key for Corey Kluber’s dominant start

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber
Mar 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Corey Kluber (28) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during a spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Yankees signed Corey Kluber before the season, they expected him to attack hitters with his stuff and limit self-inflicted damage, as his career 5.6 walk rate would suggest. In the first five starts of the season, though, he has an uncharacteristically high 12.9 walk rate, coupled with a 4.15 ERA.

The Yankees’ veteran righty had trouble consistently finding the strike zone in his first four starts with his new team. But as it turns out, it was a matter of him trusting his stuff and not nibbling around the zone: attacking hitters worked out perfectly for him last night against the Baltimore Orioles.

Kluber pitched his longest game in more than a couple of years, staying on the mound for 6 2/3 very competitive innings and limiting the Orioles’ offense in a 5-1 Yankees win on the road.

“Getting the win is the most important thing, but I’ve been saying that I feel like I’m close,” Kluber said. “It was good to finally go out there and string together a good outing. Any win you can get is a special one.”

The Yankees’ starter finally trusted his stuff

Kluber was able to live in the zone with his whole arsenal: cutter, sinker and curveball. He was razor-sharp, conceding a single run on six hits and two walks. Perhaps more importantly, he provided the Yankees’ bullpen with some rest.

“That’s the goal every time out as a starter,” Kluber said. “Our bullpen has been unbelievable thus far this year. They’ve probably had to cover more innings than we’d all like this far. For them to continue to have that success throughout the course of the season, I think that as much as we can lessen their burden, the better.”

“Corey set the tone,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, per MLB.com. “He threw the ball really well and was in command most of the night.”

His catcher Kyle Higashioka also praised him. “He was really just pounding the zone with everything — cutter, two-seamer, slider, changeup,” Higashioka said. “I think the big thing for us tonight was definitely making sure that we were pounding the zone and being aggressive with these hitters. I think it really paid off.”

If Kluber can recapture at least 85 percent of the form that made him a two-time Cy Young award winner, the Yankees would be thrilled.