Corey Kluber was a gamble when the Yankees handed him $11 million last off-season and hoped he could recapture something like the form that had made him a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had lost most of two seasons to injury and there were no guarantees he’d ever be the same, but he’d shown enough to dream on.
The Yankees believed and now he’s part of the club’s lore.
Relying on a nasty breaking ball, the 35-year-old righty pitched the 12th no-hit game in Yankees history Wednesday night in a 2-0 victory over the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington. Three of those Yankee no-hitters were perfect games — Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series and David Wells and David Cone in the regular season.
When he retired Willie Calhoun on a grounder for the final out of the game, Kluber hugged catcher Kyle Higashioka and then was mobbed on the mound by his teammates. The Yankees shared handshakes and hugs with the pitcher afterward as he grinned in joy. Maybe some relief, too.
“I wouldn’t say I was freaking out” as the bottom of the ninth inning began, Kluber said. But, he added, “I definitely had to take a breath after the warmups and calm down a little bit. I’d compare it to the feeling before your first playoff start ― heart beating, adrenaline going. Maybe it was helpful I had felt that before.”
Added Higashioka: “I feel like it was almost like what you would imagine the feeling after winning the World Series, a crazy euphoric feeling. He lifted me off the ground pretty hard. I could tell he was pretty pumped.”
Kluber’s gem is the sixth no-hitter in Major League Baseball this season and it came one night after Spencer Turnbull of the Detroit Tigers threw one against the Seattle Mariners.
In a neat bit of bow-tying, Kluber threw the no-no on the same mound on which he threw just one inning in 2020 before missing the rest of the season with injury. Against his old team for that one inning, the Rangers. Oddly enough, bobbleheads of Kluber in a Rangers uniform ― leftovers from last year — were among the giveaways at Globe Life Field Wednesday, according to the YES Network’s broadcast.
Kluber allowed only one baserunner all night, striking out nine and walking one. He threw 101 pitches; 71 for strikes.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I think it was a special night. I’ve never been part of one, witnessed one, let alone throw one. More than anything, just a lot of fun to be a part of.”
That was a theme in the Yankees clubhouse. Aaron Boone said something along those lines, noting he had never been in one, either.
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“I’ve played in a lot of games and now managed in a lotta games,” Boone said. “I think I was in the (broadcast) booth for a couple. My dad caught a perfect game here in ’84 in Arlington.
“That was so much fun to be a small part of and be on the team and see Corey go out there and spin that. It truly was a privilege. I had butterflies in that ninth inning and I’m getting emotional right now.”
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning when Tyler Wade, who had entered the game as a sub when right fielder Ryan LaMarre pulled up injured while running out a grounder, hit an RBI triple. One batter later, D.J. LeMahieu knocked in another run with a sac fly.
Kluber did the rest with precision. His pitches grazed the edges of the strike zone, making it very difficult for the Rangers to make the kind of contact that causes any kind of damage.
Kluber got through the first two innings in 20 pitches, retiring all six batters. With one out in the third, he walked Charlie Culberson on four pitches, giving the Rangers their only baserunner. Boone said the lapse came because Kluber “lost the zone inexplicably.” That didn’t happen again.
“Other than that, it was just special, a clinic on pitching,” the manager said.
Kluber retired the next two batters in the third and kept cruising, getting through six innings on just 70 pitches. He zipped through the seventh inning having thrown only 85 pitches and he was out of the eighth inning just eight pitches later.
In the ninth, there was one ball, a liner by David Dahl to right field, that especially made some Yankees nervous. Watching from behind the plate, “I got a little sad for a second,” Higashioka said. But Wade, an infielder by trade, sped toward the line to catch the ball for the second out.
“Before that, I was thinking, I’m going to run through a wall if anything is hit near me,” Wade said.
Kluber got the final out, retiring Willie Calhoun on a grounder to Gleyber Torres. After the game, Boone told Gleyber, “You’ll be in that final image forever.”
Forever is where Kluber is now, a Yankee forever. He’ll always be part of their lore, no longer the risky pitcher who they dreamed could complement their ace, Gerrit Cole, but a member of a big-name, no-hit club. His was the first Yankee no-hit game since Cone’s perfect game in 1999. It was also the first Yankee no-hitter thrown on the road since Allie Reynolds threw one in Cleveland on July 12, 1951.
Kluber got a beer shower in the clubhouse afterward, a bit of fun. But much more, too.
“For the other guys to say how much it meant to them to be a part of it was definitely something that was special to me,” Kluber said. “It’ll go down as a no-hitter with my name on it, but it takes an entire team to accomplish something like that.”