Chicago Cubs strike out against Cleveland in Game 1 of World Series
CLEVELAND -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon insisted Tuesday his team would not be awed by the big stage and the bright lights of the World Series.
Maddon was probably right. The Cubs have been unflappable all year.
But there was one guy who left them wide-eyed: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber.
The ace of the Indians' staff dazzled the Cubs through 6-plus innings and got relief help from tough lefty Andrew Miller as Cleveland took Game 1 of the World Series 6-0 at Progressive Field. The Indians got offensive help from catcher Roberto Perez, who homered twice.
Kluber came out firing, striking out eight Cubs through his first 3 innings pitched, setting an Indians record that quickly for strikeouts in a World Series game.
"He's good," Maddon said. "He gets such great movement both directions with his cutter and his comebacker. He was hitting the edges. He pitched well. You've got to give him a lot of credit.
"I liked our at-bats against Miller. I liked the fact that we got him up to 50 pitches, also."
Kluber outdueled Cubs lefty Jon Lester, and his performance should not have come as any surprise. He entered the game with an 0.98 ERA in the postseason, the second-lowest figure among starters in the playoffs, behind Lester's 0.86 coming in.
"Well, I think he's a good pitcher all the time," said Indians manager Terry Francona. "I think for the last three years he's been pretty good. In these playoffs, he's been about as good as … and we need him, and we're going to need him more."
Francona lifted Kluber for Miller when Ben Zobrist singled to lead off the seventh and the Indians leading 3-0. Miller then proceeded to create, and then get himself out of, a bases-loaded jam. After walking Kyle Schwarber and giving up a single to Javier Baez, Miller got pinch hitter Willson Contreras on a short fly to center before he struck out Addison Russell and David Ross.
"The 3-1 slider was really good," Ross said. "The 3-2 slider was even better. I've caught him. I know him and he's really good."
Maddon knew full well the Indians would try to get their running game in motion against Lester, who has trouble with pickoff throws but who has done a good job limiting other teams's running games along with catcher Ross.
Lester retired Rajai Davis and Jason Kipnis to start the bottom of the first before Francisco Lindor singled and stole second base. Before the inning was over, Cleveland had scored 2 runs on 2 hits, 2 walks and a hit batter.
Lester gave up a home run to Perez in the fourth, making it 3-0.
"The biggest thing was the first inning," Lester said. "The first inning was the whole game. I'm not worried about giving up a homer in a 1-0 game."
Pedro Strop relieved Lester with two outs and a man on second in the sixth. Perez added a 3-run homer in the eighth against Hector Rondon.
"Oh, I don't think I ever had a night like that," Perez said. "It was huge."
There were a couple of interesting things to watch. Injured Cubs catcher-outfielder Kyle Schwarber returned from knee surgery and played in his first major-league game since April. He struck out in the second inning, doubled in the fourth, walked in the seventh and struck out to end the eighth with two runners aboard.
He could have been doubled off second base on Contreras' fly as he wandered far down the base path toward third, but the throw went home instead.
The other aspect was how this young Cubs team would handle the franchise's first World Series appearance since 1945. Maddon's approach from Day 1 has been to treat each game the same, whether it's in March, June or October. Tuesday seemed to be no different, even with the loss.
"Our guys are good," Maddon said. "They'll be ready to play tomorrow. I thought we were ready to play. Our guys looked really good. They were great in the dugout today. It's the first game. I'm fine. We're fine."