CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber got the Cleveland Indians off to a striking start and Roberto Perez put away Chicago in the Cubs’ first World Series game since 1945.
Kluber dominated into the seventh inning, Perez homered twice and the Indians beat the Cubs 6-0 in the opener Tuesday night. AL Championship Series MVP Andrew Miller escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh and got out of trouble in the eighth, preserving a three-run lead.
“It’s almost like you have that extra level of intensity,” said Kluber, who became the first Series pitcher to strike out eight batters in the first three innings.
In a matchup between the teams with baseball’s longest championship droughts, the Indians scored twice in the first off October ace Jon Lester.
Perez drove in four runs with a fourth-inning solo shot and a three-run drive in the eighth against Hector Rondon, becoming the first Cleveland player and the only No. 9 batter to homer twice in a Series game.
“I’ve come a long ways,” said Perez, who has three home runs in 27 at-bats during the postseason after hitting three in 153 during the regular season.
Francisco Lindor added three hits as the Indians improved to 8-1 this postseason. Cleveland manager Terry Francona is 9-0 in the Series, including sweeps by his Boston teams in 2004 and ‘07.
The Game 1 winner has taken the title in the last six Series and 17 of 19.
“I have no concerns,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s the first game. I’m fine, we’re fine.”
Trevor Bauer, trying to come back from a sliced pinkie caused by a freak drone accident, starts Game 2 for the Indians on Wednesday night against Jake Arrieta. Because the forecast called for an increased chance of rain later in the evening, Major League Baseball took the extraordinary step of moving up the first pitch by an hour to 7:08 p.m.
Kluber painted the outside corner, and 24 of his 59 strikes were called by plate umpire Larry Vanover. Twelve batters were caught looking, including seven Cubs.
“I think his ball was moving too much today,” said Perez, Cleveland’s catcher. “We got guys off balance the whole night.”
Kluber combined with Miller and Cody Allen to fan 15, and Chicago went 2 for 15 with 10 strikeouts with runners on base.
With the Indians hoping for their first title since 1948 and the Cubs seeking their first since 1908, Lester stumbled in the opening inning.
Cleveland loaded the bases with two outs off Lester, who had been 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA in three Series starts. Jose Ramirez had a run-scoring swinging bunt single and Brandon Guyer was hit by a pitch. Perez connected in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.
Teams that combined for 174 seasons of futility, America’s biggest droughts since the Great Plains’ Dust Bowl of the 1930s, captivated even many non-baseball fans.
On a night of civic pride, LeBron James and the NBA’s Cavaliers received their championship rings next door prior to their season opener, and Cleveland hosted a World Series opener for the first time.
The Cubs had not played in the Series since five weeks after Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender ending World War II.
Kluber, whose win in the All-Star Game gave the AL home-field advantage on the Series, improved to 3-1 in the postseason and lowered his ERA to a sparkling 0.74.
He was pitching on six days’ rest, and his two-seam fastball was darting through the strike zone. Kluber struck out nine in six innings and walked none
Kyle Schwarber, making a surprise return in his first big league game since tearing knee ligaments on April 7, doubled off the right-field wall in the fourth — a drive kept in by a stiff wind on a 50-degree night. Kluber then got Javier Baez to fly out.
Zobrist’s leadoff double in the seventh finished Kluber, and Cleveland loaded the bases with no outs against Miller on Schwarber’s walk and Baez’s single. Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras flied to Rajai Davis in short center, and Davis threw home rather than double up Schwarber, who had strayed far off second.
Using his intimidating slider, Miller struck out Addison Russell and David Ross to escape the jam, then fanned Schwarber to strand runners at the corners in the eighth, his 46th pitch. Miller has thrown 20 scoreless innings in postseason play, including 13 2/3 innings with 24 strikeouts this year.
Allen completed Cleveland’s fourth postseason shutout and second in a row.
Ramirez also had three hits each for the Indians, who beat Toronto in the ALCS despite hitting just .168. Zobrist had three hit for the Cubs.
Lester gave up three runs, six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings, and was rattled by Vanover’s calls, barking at the umpire in the third, then stopping for a discussion at the inning’s end.