Being in two separate leagues (and not in the same state), the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs do not play each other very often. They have only faced off 10 times this century — three-game series in 2006 and 2009, then a four-game series last season.
One of last year’s matchups we will never speak of again, but another was an instant classic for fans of pitching duels, even if the result wasn’t the best for the good guys.
Although the Indians were in a dismal spot at the time — a 58-66 record on August 24, 2015 — the game was exciting because of the matchup between staff aces Corey Kluber and Jon Lester. It more than lived up to the hype, and it’s happening again in Game 1 of the World Series.
While not quite at his 2014 Cy Young form, Kluber was fantastic last season, but his ERA and win/loss record painted a negative picture due to some bad luck and a severely lacking Indians offense. Playing the Cubs was a chance for him to make a mark late in the season. He was masterful in the start, holding the Cubs to just four hits over 7.2 innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks. As was common last season, he just did not get the run support he needed. The Indians mustered just six hits and one run off of Lester, who recorded all but the final out of the game for a playoff-bound Chicago team.
The Cubs lineup last August was not nearly the juggernaut it is now, so take that into consideration, but the Klubot carried a perfect game through 5.1 innings. David Ross broke it up with a single to left; the Cubs scored their only run off of Kluber in the next inning when Chris Coghlan doubled and Anthony Rizzo tripled right after.
Kluber left the game with a 1-0 deficit — the Indians would not score until the top of the ninth when Carlos Santana singled home Abraham Almonte. With no Andrew Miller to use, Terry Francona turned to Zach McAllister in the ninth and... Kris Bryant hit a walk-off home run.
Being that it involved the Indians, who were basement-dwellers in the AL Central at the time, the game was mostly overlooked. Which is a shame, because it was one of my favorite matchups of 2015 — minus the outcome, of course.
Most notably in that game for the Indians, Kluber held current Cubs Dexter Fowler, Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, David Ross and Kris Bryant to a combined 3-for-16 with nine strikeouts. Schwarber, would potentially DH in the series, was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts against Kluber.
The recap of the game, put together by Andrew Kinsman, is interesting to look back on. Even more so is the comments such as this one from BuenosAires_Dawg:
A game that was poorly played and poorly managed. I thought Zach’s HR/9 numbers were similar to Cody’s. I was wrong. The pressure on Francona is going to start to build, at least on this board. I think some of us are tired of his poor decisions and stubborn approach. A manager’s impact is limited, I know, but his decisions are costing the team wins. We were even lucky enough not to have any balls hit hard in the vicinity of Aviles today.
Remember when Mike Aviles was a thing? Remember when Terry Francona was known as a stubborn coach who made decisions based on minuscule sample sizes and player-versus-player “analytics”? We can all pretend we were not upset with Tito last season, but so many people were — and rightfully so at times.
It’s funny how much changes in a season.