None of us has seen every World Series game ever played, but we’re pretty confident Corey Kluber pitched one of the best games in Fall Classic history Tuesday night.
Or, at the least, one of the best games in recent memory.
The Indians ace held the Chicago Cubs’ high-powered lineup at bay, tossing six-plus scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out nine before giving way to Andrew Miller, as Cleveland ultimately cruised to a 6-0 win in the series opener.
Kluber’s start was a work of baseball art. He was nearly unhittable, tearing through the Chicago lineup with ease, featuring a devastating two-seam fastball he threw to both sides of the plate while also featuring a sharp curveball that induced many feeble swings from a Cubs offense that was second in the National League in runs.
The 30-year-old right-hander did a masterful job of changing looks against the Cubs, as evidenced by the fact that six of his nine strikeouts were looking. Kluber was especially tough on left-handed hitters, using his running two-seamer back over the inside corner and taking full advantage of a sizable strike zone from home plate umpire Larry Hanover. The second and third times through the lineup, Kluber featured a wider array of offspeed stuff, throwing 14 curveballs as well as a handful of cutters and changeups.
The end result was an off-balance Cubs team that now has some work to do.
Here are some more Game 1 takeaways.
— If you had never heard of Roberto Perez, that’s forgivable. The 27-year-old catcher never has played more than 70 games in a season, but there’s no excuse not to know his name now. Perez hammered a home run (with a 113-mph exit velocity) off Chicago starter Jon Lester in the fourth inning and put the game on ice with a three-run blast in the eighth. Perez became the first Indians player — and the first No. 9 hitter — to hit two home runs in a World Series game.
— Miller recorded arguably the six most important outs of the game, which is all that matters, but he certainly didn’t look like the machine we saw in the American League Division and Championship Series. The Indians left-hander labored through his two scoreless frames, allowing two hits while also walking two, having to strand five runners over the two innings. He also threw 46 pitches, leaving his status for Game 2 in jeopardy. Indians manager Terry Francona was noncommittal about whether he’d go back to Miller in Game 2, pointing out the lefty was ready to go the next day after throwing 40 pitches in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox.
— Speaking of Francona, he’s now 9-0 in World Series games for his career. Decent.
— The Cubs’ first three hitters — Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — went a combined 0-for-11 with a walk, which obviously needs to change if Chicago wants any chance of winning this series. The bottom of the Cubs’ order went 2-for-12, so when your 1-3 and 7-9 hitters go a combined 2-for-23, it’s pretty hard to turn over the lineup and have any sort of big innings.
— Joe Maddon has a better feel for the pulse of his team than anyone, but it was a head-scratching decision by the Cubs manager to let David Ross hit in the top of the seventh against Miller with two outs and the bases loaded. Ross did almost work a walk before Miller threw him two nasty sliders on 3-1 and again on 3-2 to get a check-swing strikeout. Maddon explained afterward that he believed Ross had the best chance of getting on base, saying multiple times he thought it was possible Ross could have worked a walk. It just didn’t work out.
— One of the few bright spots for the Cubs was Kyle Schwarber, who returned to the Chicago lineup for the first time since suffering a knee injury in April. After striking out in his first at-bat, Schwarber tattooed a Kluber pitch in the fourth inning, nearly hitting it out but instead settling for a double. He also walked.
— Major League Baseball made an executive decision, bumping up Game 2 an hour to 7 p.m. ET with rain in the Cleveland forecast for Tuesday night. That’s probably welcomed news for anyone who stayed up to watch all 3 hours and 37 minutes of Game 1.
— Francona on the time change: “I’m going to be here anyway by 10 (a.m.). So it doesn’t really matter.”
— Former big league pitcher Dan Haren had the tweet of the night.
Thumbnail photo via Elsa/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports Images