Rozner: Cubs not down or out after Game 1 defeat
CLEVELAND -- Five years ago Tuesday, Theo Epstein stepped in front of a microphone at a Wrigley Field news conference for the first time.
He might as well have been stepping in front of a CTA bus for all the chance people gave him of rebuilding a Cubs organization that had been thrown together like an '80s resale shop.
And yet, Tuesday night at Progressive Field, there were Epstein's Cubs in the World Series, arriving in Cleveland near the top of the mountain, a step below the summit, and knowing the toughest part of the climb awaited.
There was pomp, circumstance and frivolity, not to mention Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.
The Cubs expected the outside noise, but maybe not the two-seamer inside that Kluber used to baffle Cubs hitters to the tune of 9 strikeouts in 6 innings, outpitching Jon Lester in a 6-0 victory in Game 1 of the World Series.
If that weren't surprising enough, Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez hit 2 home runs, giving him 3 bombs in 27 postseason at-bats, after hitting 3 all season in 153 at-bats.
It was a disappointing opening game for the visitors, leaving 9 on base and going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, but there was an ease about the team postgame.
It was a very relaxed Cubs clubhouse, as if they knew something we didn't.
"We've got a confident group here," said veteran David Ross. "We've been down before and we know what we're capable of. Their guy made better pitches than our guy.
"Next game, we'll try to turn that around."
The Indians served notice that they will be no easy out, striking a pose closely resembling the Kansas City Royals of the last few years. They don't appear to do anything great -- except play great fundamental baseball.
And they displayed that to near-perfection in Game 1.
The Cleveland rotation was terrific all summer until injuries took a toll, but they survived because of great defense, a stealth offense and -- as of late -- a wicked two-man bullpen.
And it took only into the bottom of the first of Game 1 to see how they reached the World Series, scoring twice while barely hitting the ball out of the infield.
They scratch out a few runs early, get the ball to Miller and Allen and put teams away with a frustrating attack that sneaks up on opponents and roughs them up with a dull nail file.
But the Cubs did see Miller for 46 pitches in 2 innings, which can only help in the days ahead, especially for the guys who have never faced him.
And they had Miller him on the ropes with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh, but Willson Contreras popped out, Addison Russell struck out and Ross went fishing on a 3-2 slider that would have been ball four if he hadn't committed.
They also got the tying run to the plate in the eighth, before Kyle Schwarber swung and missed a pitch he was trying to hit to Toledo, or Akron, or someplace else in Ohio far from here.
"We missed some opportunities late in the game, but I'm proud of our guys and the at-bats we had later in the game," Ross said. "We continued to grind and I think we can take a lot of confidence out of the second half of this game."
To look into their eyes and listen to them talk is to believe that the Cubs are not worried after one game.
"It sounds like a cliché," said Anthony Rizzo with a small grin, "but there's a lot of positives to take out of this. We had some really good at-bats in this game and if we keep doing that we'll be all right."
Yeah, the Cubs have written this script before. They start a series with no offense and then start hitting when it suits them, as they did against the Giants and Dodgers.
They won Game 1 of the first two series at home, but they were also down 2-1 to the Dodgers on the road for the middle three before winning three straight to capture the pennant in Game 6 at Wrigley Field against Clayton Kershaw.
So they will do what they always do, which is come to the park with a plan for Trevor Bauer and expect to win Wednesday.
Panic is simply not part of the program.
• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.