Kluber and Company, Backed by Two Perez Blasts, Blank Cubs; Indians 6, Cubs 0
Bob Toth | On 25, Oct 2016
You can pinch yourself all you want, Cleveland fans. You’re living the dream.
The Cleveland Indians, backed by six-plus strong innings from Corey Kluber, gutsy relief work from Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, and two big blasts from Roberto Perez, blanked the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night, 6-0.
For fans in downtown Cleveland, it was a tale of fiction come to life as the Indians opened the World Series while the little brother Cleveland Cavaliers celebrated their 2015-2016 NBA title next door with a ring ceremony and the raising of the championship banner at Quicken Loans Arena. While the Cavs honored the end of Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought, the Indians worked to end the four-month drought plaguing the city for the grueling summer months as the cool air of October settled over the northeast Ohio region.
Kluber had no easy opposition on Tuesday, facing the second-highest scoring offense in all of baseball this season and the winningest team overall, the Cubs, who won 103 games in the regular season before returning to the World Series for the first time since 1945. He was also opposed by Jon Lester, who had done nothing but dominate all comers in three career Fall Classic starts.
The story with Kluber every season seems to revolve around whether or not his offense would give him enough runs to win each night out. His teammates tried to eliminate any doubt around that in the first inning, when they put the back of the veteran southpaw Lester up against the wall.
Lester retired the first two batters quickly, striking out Rajai Davis and getting a liner from Jason Kipnis just five pitches into the bottom of the first inning. But superstar-in-the-making Francisco Lindor lined a single to center and picked off second base to get a little rally started. Mike Napoli worked a walk and Carlos Santana followed suit in a five-pitch at bat as the Indians loaded the bases. During the regular season, that was a recipe for trouble for Cleveland, as the Tribe hit just .228 with the bags loaded and were one of two teams without a grand slam on the year, but it did not matter for the little RBI-machine that could, Jose Ramirez. Captain Clutch hit a slow roller between the mound and the third base line with the effectiveness of a surprise bunt as Lindor scored the game’s first run. Brandon Guyer, in the lineup because of his proficiency at the plate against lefties, took an 0-2 pitch from Lester off of his right thigh to force in a second run and the Indians had a 2-0 lead.
With the way Kluber would pitch on the night, that would be more than enough for the Tribe’s ace and work horse.
Kluber struck out each of the first two batters to start the night and added three more to his tally in the second after a leadoff double from Ben Zobrist to right-center. He struck out three more in the third, around a one-out single from soon-to-be-retired David Ross, giving him eight strikeouts through the first eleven batters of the night.
Cleveland had two singles and a walk in the bottom of the third, but could not find home plate. Chicago got its third hit of the night, a two-out double and the first hit of the season for Kyle Schwarber, but Kluber worked out of it one pitch later on a fly to right from Javier Baez.
Kluber’s battery mate aided his pitcher’s cause in the home half of the fourth, as Perez took Lester deep to left-center, clearing the yellow line on the top of the 19-foot wall with a solo blast off of the railing to make it a 3-0 Indians edge.
Lester left in the bottom of the sixth with a runner on second after a leadoff double from Ramirez, but Pedro Strop left him there. Kluber returned for the seventh, but exited after a leadoff single from Zobrist, giving the ball to the reliable Miller, who found a rare tough outing in the postseason awaiting him. He walked Schwarber on a 3-2 pitch and gave up a single to left to Baez to load the bases for rookie catcher Willson Contreras, but he sent the second pitch of his at bat into shallow center and into the hustling possession of Davis for the first out. Bags still juiced, Miller struck out Addison Russell on three pitches and K’d Ross on a full count, check swing, called third strike to work out of a potential disaster.
The Cubs threatened again in the eighth, getting a one-out walk from Kris Bryant and a two-out single by Zobrist to put runners on the corners and bringing the tying run to the plate in the left-handed Schwarber. But working in his first official game since April 7, Schwarber was no match for Miller the second time around, cutting and missing on a pitch in to end the threat.
Cleveland erased all doubt in the bottom half of the eighth against Cubs reliever Justin Grimm, on for his second inning of work after giving up a double to Lindor and getting Napoli to ground out in the seventh. He retired the first two batters in order before Guyer worked a six-pitch walk. Lonnie Chisenhall slashed a single the opposite way into left to bring former Indians pitching prospect Hector Rondon in from the bullpen. Number nine hitter Perez stepped in and made sure his first career World Series game would never be forgotten as he blasted a no-doubter into the bleachers in left to double the Indians advantage to 6-0.
Allen, who was already up and warming in the bullpen before the big three-run blast, came on for the ninth and struck out Baez before a ridiculous bat-flip double from Contreras that might have gone for three bases had he not pimped his shot and wasted time hustling out of the box. It would be a moot point as Allen blew away Russell on four pitches, including the last three swinging, and set down pinch-hitter Miguel Montero on five, including the final one hacking to end it.
Cleveland took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with Chicago. Kluber earned the win in his first World Series start and improved to 3-1 this postseason. Lester took home the loss, his first in World Series action in his career.
The shutout was the Indians’ fourth of the postseason, matching the Major League record. Tribe manager Terry Francona improved to 9-0 in his career in the World Series.
THE INCREDIBLE KLUBER
Kluber had just one career start against the Cubs coming into Tuesday night and happened to do so against Lester. That game included seven and two-thirds innings of one-run baseball with just four hits and eleven strikeouts.
He followed that theme on Tuesday, working six-plus innings while holding the Cubs scoreless on just four hits. He struck out nine, with eight coming in the first three innings, and did not issue a free pass or hit batter.
In the 2016 postseason, Kluber has now worked a total of 24 1/3 innings in four starts, posting a 3-1 record with a 0.74 ERA (two earned runs allowed) and a 0.99 WHIP. Opposing hitters are batting just .193 against him and have struck out 29 times while walking just seven.
Lester entered the game with a 3-0 record in three career World Series starts with a 1.38 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in 13 total innings.
That all went out the window as the Indians tagged him for two early runs and one more later in his five and two-thirds innings of work on the night. He walked three and struck out seven, but gave up three runs on six hits in his shortest and worst outing of the 2016 postseason to date.
Through four games in the playoffs this season, Lester is 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with 21 strikeouts and five walks in 26 2/3 innings.
Perez had just three home runs during the 2016 regular season schedule and was far better known for hitting the ball with authority the opposite way when striking the ball hard.
Such was not the case in Game 1, as he pulled a pair of home runs to left field while becoming just the fifth catcher in Major League history to have a multi-homer game in the World Series. He joined the likes of Gary Carter (New York Mets, 1986), Johnny Bench (Cincinnati Reds, 1976), Gene Tenace (Oakland A’s, 1972), and Yogi Berra (New York Yankees, 1956).
His multi-homer game was also historic within the confines of the Indians organization – he became just the third player in franchise history with a multi-homer game in the playoffs and the first to do so in the World Series.
OTHER STAR PERFORMERS
Lindor had a memorable debut as he continues to etch his name into the memories of baseball fans around the country, giving them the same satisfaction that Cleveland fans have enjoyed throughout his sophomore season. He had three hits in four at bats, including a double, and picked off a base in the first inning. He was also caught stealing on a close play at second later in the game.
Ramirez was 3-for-4 for the Tribe with a similar two singles and a double, but instead of scoring a run like Lindor, he drove one in with his first inning infield dribbler that plated his left side of the infield teammate. The strong start in the World Series opener had to be a great feeling for the 24-year-old fourth year pro, who was just 1-for-17 in the ALCS with one RBI against Toronto.
Zobrist was easily the star performer for the Cubs on the night as the scrappy utility guy started in left field and was 3-for-4 at the plate with two singles and a double.
POWER OUTAGE BEFORE THE BAUER OUTAGE
The bottom three hitters in the order (including two pinch-hitters) fared slightly better, going 2-for-12 with a double and seven strikeouts. That mark included an 0-for-4 day for Russell, who struck out three times and saw a total of eleven pitches on the night.
The Cubs as a team left nine men on base and combined to go 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that due to inclement weather expected in the Cleveland area late in the day on Wednesday that first pitch of Game 2 would be moved up one hour in an attempt to avoid any delays.
Right-hander and reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) will take the mound for the Cubs, hoping to even things up in the series while taking the home field edge in their favor with six potential games left to play, including the middle three at home in Chicago. He is winless this postseason, working six innings of two-run baseball against the San Francisco Giants during the NLDS and five innings of four-run baseball in a loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.
Fly boy Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26) will be his challenger on Wednesday and the first man to the mound in the ball game. The right-hander was limited in the ALCS due to a severe laceration on his right pinkie finger that required many stitches. He attempted to pitch through the issue during Game 3 of the series in Toronto, only to rip open the wound while bleeding openly on the mound, leading to his exit from the game after just four batters faced. In the first round of the playoffs against Boston, he allowed three runs on six hits in four and two-thirds innings.
First pitch of Game 2 of the World Series is now scheduled for a 7:00 PM ET start from Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland.
Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images