NEW YORK (AP) — Corey Kluber was so good, he even smiled.
The right-hander handcuffed Detroit batters Sunday to earn his 100th career win with his most dominant performance since 2018. The pitcher nicknamed Klubot for his robot-like demeanor grinned when congratulated in the dugout after his final inning.
“I’m not the most vocal or most emotional person in the clubhouse,” he explained after the Yankees’ 2-0 victory, “but I wouldn’t say that I don’t ever have a good time.”
A day after Jameson Taillon’s first win in exactly two years, Kluber combined on a two-hitter that helped New York (14-14) complete its first series sweep this season and get back to .500 for the first time since the Yankees were 5-5.
Before last month, Kluber had pitched one inning since May 1, 2019, due to a broken forearm when hit by a comebacker and a torn shoulder muscle. Kluber challenged himself “to kind of get back to maybe a level you expect of yourself.”
“I tried to be realistic about it, that it probably wasn’t going to be just flip a switch and feel like I like to feel out there, I’m accustomed to feeling out there,” he said.
Kluber (2-2) looked like the pitcher who won AL Cy Young Awards with Cleveland in 2014 and 2017.
He allowed two hits in eight innings, walked one and struck out 10 to reach double digits for the 47th time but first since Sept. 24, 2018. Kluber threw 74 of 103 pitches for strikes.
“When he’s in the zone, it’s kind of like — good luck,” said catcher Kyle Higashioka, who is gaining playing time from Gary Sánchez.
Kluiber’s fastball was “only” 91 mph but he induced 18 swinging strikes — 13 alone on 83-86 mph changeups that tamed a Tigers team that saw its season batting average dropped to a major league-worst .195.