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Kluber, Indians shut out Cubs on a glorious Cleveland night

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You might think there was magic in the air tonight, but there’s a much simpler explanation: Kluber

MLB: World Series-Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Indians 6, Cubs 0

box score

Indians lead World Series 1-0

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It’s hard to put into words the way I’m feeling right now, and I imagine I’m not alone here. On a night the Cleveland Cavaliers hung raised their NBA Championship banner, something even more incredible happened right across the street at Progressive Field. Corey Kluber dazzled national viewers, baffled the Cubs, and led the Tribe to their first World Series victory since 1997 and their first Game 1 victory since 1920.

The biggest story of the night by far was Corey Kluber. The Klubot was perhaps more devastating tonight than he’s ever been before. His backdoor cutter was so filthy, so unfair, that Rob Manfred ought to consider banning it. He was spotting the fastball perfectly, painting the outside corner to righties with great aplomb (and perhaps benefitting from a generous strike zone early on). Cubs hitters were overwhelmed by Kluber’s onslaught, striking out more often than not and rarely making decent contact. Kluber in fact set a record, becoming the first to strike out eight hitters in the first three innings of a postseason game.

Kuber gave up just four hits over his six sterling innings, but the only one that made Tribe fans’ collective heart jump was a double by Kyle Schwarber in the 4th, which missed leaving the ballpark by about three feet. But, perhaps symbolically, Kluber didn’t let The Narrative affect him and Schwarber, like every Cub that reached base tonight, failed to score. Kluber departed after giving up a leadoff single to Ben Zobrist (his third damn hit of the night), but finished the night with nine strikeouts, zero walks, and an uncharacteristic smile on his face. He was so lights out tonight that the offense barely had to do anything, but they did plenty enough to secure the win.

The Tribe offense starting Indians-ing it up the first chance they got, ignited by a two-out single from Francisco Lindor in the 1st (Lindor collected another single and a double later and if he hadn’t arrived on the national stage yet, then he damn sure did tonight). Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana took back-to-back walks, and Jon Lester was visibly flustered by home plate umpire Larry Vanover’s strike zone. So flustered, in fact, that he couldn’t do anything to field a squibber from Jose Ramirez that scored Lindor and kept the bases loaded. So flustered that he then hit Brandon Guyer in the leg on a two-strike pitch to put the Tribe up 2-0.

Staked to an early lead, Kluber cruised while the offense calmed down a bit. They threatened in the 3rd but couldn’t push another run across until, out of nowhere, Roberto Perez launched a ball at 113 mph that just barely cleared the yellow stripe on the “Little Monster.” Somewhere in Louisiana, a man sat on a mattress on his living room floor and wept, for Perez had burst onto the national scene and put the Indians up 3-0.

It was right around this time that Jon Lester had a heart-to-heart with Vanover on his way back to the dugout between innings. I’m not one to complain about ball and strike calls, but I bet I’m also not the only one to notice that Chicago started getting a handful of more favourable calls around the 5th inning. Brandon Guyer, for instances, struck out in the 6th on a ball that was at least half a foot off the outside corner. I mention this only to provide context for Andrew Miller’s outing, which was a bit uncharacteristic based on what we’ve seen from him thus far.

Miller was squeezed from the get-go, but more importantly just didn’t seem to have his best stuff. He walked Schwarber and gave up a single to load the bases with no outs in the 7th after coming on to relieve Kluber. With the Tribe up 3-0 and the go-ahead run at the plate for Chicago, it was time for some serious butt-clenching. But Miller even on his off-days is still Miller. He managed to induce a a soft flyout out of Wilson Contreras before coming back to K Addison Russel and David Ross after two dramatic at bats. Miller made everyone sweat again in the 8th, leading to a 1st & 3rd with two outs situation and The Narrative coming to bat. On a 2-2 count, Miller reared back for one last nasty slider, and Schwarber’s bat missed it by several inches. Though he escaped unscathed Miller through nearly 50 pitches, leaving you to wonder whether he’ll be available tomorrow night for Game 2.

With a lineup as fearsome as Chicago’s, even a 3-0 lead doesn’t seem safe. Roberto Perez, hearing our prayers, came through with his second homer of the night. A two on, two out no-doubter blew this one wide open and let us all rest easy. Roberto now has as many postseason homers as he did in 184 regular season plate appearances.

Cody Allen came in for the 9th anyway and despite giving up a double, struck out the side in short order to cap the night. Overall, the Cubs struck out 14 times. Not a bad showing against the best offense in the NL.

Trevor Bauer is slated to start tomorrow night, so it’d be best to temper your expectations of a repeat of tonight’s pitching performance. But tomorrow’s worries are for tomorrow. Tonight, the American League Champions are up one game to none in the World Series. Treasure it.