CLEVELAND — Three extras as one of the worst road trips imaginable comes to a close:
Corey Kluber’s slider is an amazing, sideways-spinning, last-second-diving pitch, and he used it to great effect Wednesday night against the Twins. Kluber struck out a season-high 11 Twins, and Minnesota manager Paul Molitor mentioned after the game that “we had some guys who couldn’t make any adjustments.” No names, but Miguel Sano struck out three times.
Anyway, that’s why Molitor was intrigued by the way Kluber pitched to Brian Dozier. The Twins’ hottest hitter, with a dozen home runs already this month, struck out looking on a slider in the first inning, but didn’t see only sliders the rest of the way.
“He was challenging Dozier. He threw him some sliders, but almost every at-bat — he know dozier can hit a fastball, and he wasn’t afraid to do it,” Molitor said. “Dozier finally caught up to one and smoked it.”
He did, about 400 feet into the bleachers in left-center field, his 32nd home run of the season.
“He threw a lot of fastballs tonight,” Dozier agreed. “I took a good cut at one earlier,” so Kluber clearly was emboldened to try again.
It was Dozier’s second career home run against Kluber, the other coming last September, but don’t be fooled into thinking Dozier likes his chances against the former Cy Young winner. He’s now 5-for-37 (.135) in his career, and was extremely impressed with how the Indians’ ace looked on Wednesday.
“He was pitching really big-league for awhile there,” Dozier said.
Dozier has had more plate appearances than any other pitcher in his career except one — Jose Quintana, who by coincidence he will face on Thursday.
Max Kepler’s third-inning home run off Kluber also came on a fastball. Oddly, considering the quality of Kluber’s slider, that’s what Kepler was looking for.
Hitting coach Tom Brunansky “told me [Kluber] likes to throw his fastball by you at 95 [mph] when you’re behind in the count,” Kepler explained of his thinking. “And he left it up a little. I just kind of slapped it out to center.”
He “slapped” it 418 feet, actually, his 16th homer of the season.
Wednesday’s postseason roster deadline passed without a trade by the Twins, who could have dealt any player who passed unclaimed through waivers.