Battery provides all the spark in Tribe victory - The Buffalo News

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Battery provides all the spark in Tribe victory

CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber plus Andrew Miller and a wrapup from Cody Allen. As expected. A big bat from Roberto Perez. Not expected.

The Cleveland Indians rode a pitching formula that's been just about unbeatable in October and a stunning two-homer night from their light-hitting catcher to a 6-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night in the opener of the World Series at Progressive Field.

While Cleveland thrived in its first Series game in 19 years, it was a forgettable Game One for the Cubs. They waited 71 years to play in the Fall Classic and their offense got stifled in the chilly Ohio air with 15 strikeouts.

The bats were particularly silent against Kluber, who retired 18 of the 22 men he faced. The Tribe ace set a World Series record by fanning eight batters over the first three innings, and finished a lights-out outing with nine strikeouts and no walks.

Kluber, who had never pitched in the postseason before this season, has thrown 24 1/3 innings, allowed just two runs and struck out 29. And the Indians, with a rotation thinned by injuries, seem poised to give him the Bob Gibson treatment and go with him as the starter in Games Four and Seven if the need arises.

"There's more riding on each game. It's almost like you have that extra level of intensity or focus," Kluber said. "It's not something you replicate. I'm trying to treat it as any other start, get outs as quick as I can and try to go deep in the game."

Kluber got the help he needed from Miller, who wasn't nearly as sharp as he was during the ALCS against Toronto but nonetheless got the job done. And they both got huge help from their catcher, as Perez directed traffic behind the plate with some great framing and did the heavy lifting on the offensive end with a solo homer in the fourth and a three-run bomb in the eighth to cap the scoring.

How unlikely was that? Perez was a .183 hitter in the regular season with just three home runs and now has three in 31 at-bats in the postseason. He became the first catcher with a two-homer game in Series play since Gary Carter did it for the 1986 Mets in Boston's Fenway Park. The first No. 9 hitter to ever go deep twice in Series play. Things sure happen in October from sources you don't expect.

"I probably hit two mistakes but I couldn't believe it," said Perez. "It was huge."

Miller found serious trouble for the first time this month in the seventh, as he came on with Ben Zobrist at first, promptly walked Kyle Schwarber and gave up a single to Javier Baez.

In a 3-0 hole, the Cubs suddenly had the bases loaded with nobody out. It seemed a comeback that brought out shades of Game Four of the division series in San Francisco was in the offing. Could Miller possibly get out of this trap?

He could. Pinch-hitter Wilson Contreras blooped a ball to center field that Rajai Davis burst in to grab. Addison Russell struck out. And catcher David Ross was nailed on a check-swing, full-count pitch to end the threat.

But that was just the first threat against him. In the eighth Miller stayed on to face Schwarber, the lefty DH in his first game since April after a miraculous return from knee surgery, with runners at the corners.

Miller won the head-to-head battle with a strikeout and the Cubs were done. Still, there was some victory in it for Chicago; Miller threw 46 pitches in his two innings, so it seems implausible the Indians would use him again in Game Two.

That's provided Game Two is played Wednesday. Midway through the opener, MLB officials announced the start time has been pushed back an hour, to 7:08 Eastern, because of a forecast of inclement weather moving in later in the evening.

Remarkably, the shutout in Game One was the Indians' fourth in nine postseason games this year.  It was also the first blanking in a World Series opener since Jose Rijo pitched Cincinnati to a 7-0 victory over Oakland in the first game of the Reds' surprising 1990 sweep.

The Cubs never had much of a chance in this one because they didn't take their bats off their shoulders against Kluber nearly enough. The Tribe ace had plenty of late life on his fastball and made good benefit of plate umpire Larry Vanover's liberal strike zone.

"His ball was moving so much," Perez said. "He's so consistent. Every day, every five days he gets out there and always gives his best. He's a gamer. He's well prepared. We stayed with the game plan and he was just making pitches."

"I'm not upset whatsoever. They pitched really well tonight," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Indians. "Those three runs in the last inning make it look really awful. ... Otherwise, it's a highly contested game."

While Kluber thrived, Cubs starter Jon Lester did not. Lester, who had given up just one run in 22 innings of his three previous World Series starts for Boston, gave up two in the first inning Tuesday after retiring the first two batters and the Cubs never caught up.

The Indians took advantage of their homefield advantage against Boston and Toronto, and the edge in this series they didn't really deserve over the 103-win Cubs. Or did they?

The Game One winner has taken the last six titles and 12 of the last 13, with the exception being the 2009 Phillies against New York. Big advantage, Indians.

For the first time in history, the winner of the All-Star Game won Game One of the World Series. Kluber had no idea how a summer night in San Diego was going to impact his season but it sure did Tuesday.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

 

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