Between a consistent pitching mold and the ability to capitalize on the opposition's lack of command, the home nine had more than enough firepower for a win on baseball's biggest stage.
The Cleveland Indians edged past the visiting Chicago Cubs by a score of 6-0 in Game 1 of the 2016 MLB World Series from Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH.
Corey Kluber threw six scoreless and Roberto Perez homered twice in a winning effort that showed no rust despite a five-day layoff from playoff competition.
Lester struggles in early innings
The command of Jon Lester turned an innocent two-out rally into a game-changing frame of offense.
After retiring the first two batters he faced, Francisco Lindor singled, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana walked, Jose Ramirez singled, and Brandon Guyer got hit by a pitch for a two-run first.
“You can’t try to hit a swinging bunt,” Terry Francona said to a collection of media members. “Leading up to that, we took some walks, we didn’t go out of the zone. Sometimes you get rewarded when you have base-running.”
Lindor's single was a seeing eye approach up the middle, the first of three singles on the evening. Shortly after he stole second, Lester lost his mojo and walked Napoli and Santana on just 10 pitches before Ramirez topped a swinging bunt single down the third base line. Guyer's hit by pitch knocked in the second tally of the inning putting Lester and company in a 2-0 rut.
"I was just trying to do my job," said Lindor in an on-field interview after the game. "You got to be smart, you got to know when to run, when not to run. And also, I don't want to be too anxious."
Lester's final line: 5.2 IP 6 H 3 R/ER 3 BB 7 K 1 HR (97 pitches, 57 strikes).
Perez finds the bleachers on two different occasions
Yan Gomes has been injured all season long and Chris Gimenez did not make the World Series roster.
The solution? Roberto Perez.
Between his defensive contributions and power at the plate, the 2016 Indians backstop has found a role within the bottom of Francona's starting lineup.
"I'm just having fun out there," said Perez to a media reporter. "Controlling my emotions, I think that was a big part."
"It's unbelievable, I can't describe the words right now."
His solo home run in the fourth inning and three-run shot in the eighth frame accounted for 67% of the team's offense.
“I think I’m playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Perez said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. I don’t know, I just go out there and play the game the right way and control my emotions and it’s been working.”
An Indians player had never hit two home runs in a World Series game until Tuesday night.
Kluber commands baseball in strikeout-laced outing
Eight strikeouts. Three innings.
That was the historic start to Corey Kluber's first WS appearance. No World Series pitcher had ever struck out eight hitters in any three innings of work in the history of the World Series.
With a deadly combination of a two-seam fastball and sharp curveball, hitters like Kris Bryant and Dexter Fowler left the batters box at a loss for words. Kluber had complete command of all of his pitchers and finished with a much better stat line than Lester: 6 IP 4 H 0 R/ER 0 BB 9 K (88 pitches, 59 strikes).
“Well I think he’s a good pitcher all the time,” said Francona. “I think for the last three years he’s been pretty good. In these playoffs, he’s been about as good as – you know, we need him, we’re going to need him more.”
Unsurprisingly, Miller followed up the team's ace with two shutout innings of his own despite allowing two walks and two hits.
Cody Allen shut down the Cubs in a clean ninth inning of work by retiring Javier Baez, Addison Russell, and Miguel Montero on three strikeouts.
“This was kind of reminiscent of the first Boston game,” Francona said. “We won tonight, I think when you have a lead, you try to win.”
Francona is now 9-0 in World Series games.
The Indians and Cubs will stay at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH for Game 2 of the WS at 8:08 PM ET.
Slated to pitch the evening affair will be RHP Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26) and RHP Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10).
The former UCLA standout had an abbreviated 21-pitch outing in Game 3 of the ALCS due to a lacerated right (pinkie) small finger from a drone-related incident a few weeks ago. The organization has deemed Bauer healthy and ready to go for his first career WS outing.
Arrieta struggled in his lone NLCS start surrendering four runs on six hits in five frames of work.null