CLEVELAND — The Indians did their part Tuesday in contributing to one of the greatest nights in Cleveland sports history for several reasons.
Taking the field a half-hour after the Cavaliers raised their NBA championship banner in the arena next door, the Indians beat the favored Cubs 6-0 in the opener of the best-of-seven World Series.
Because their stoic ace, Stetson University product Corey Kluber was dominating, outpitching World Series-wise Jon Lester by working six sterling innings with nine strikeouts, and pulled then only to preserve bullets for a potential quick return in Game 4.
“I think he’s a good pitcher all the time. I mean, I think for the last three years he’s been pretty good,’’ Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But to your point, in these playoffs he’s been about as good as — and we need him and we’re going to need him more. But he prepares so hard and we’re talking about before the game his routines and his work ethic. That’s why, here late into October, and the needle on the gas tank doesn’t point towards empty.’’
Because their fill-in catcher known more for his edge-gaining pitch framing, Roberto Perez, delivered a pair of home runs — a solo shot in the fourth to extend a 2-0 lead to 3-0, and a three-run blast in the eighth — after hitting only three during the regular season.
“For me, it means a lot,’’ Perez said. “I’ve come a long ways. I’m just playing with a lot of confidence right now. I’m not trying to do too much at the plate. I’m just trying to control my emotions. First World Series experience, and just trying to go out there and compete and try to get good ABs up there, and try to get on base and make something happen. It’s an unbelievable feeling.’’
Because their fireballing reliever, Andrew Miller of Gainesville, found a way, despite not being as dominant as usual, to pitch his way out of — after pitching his way into — a bases loaded jam in the seventh, and wriggled out of a two-on mess in the eighth.
“I wasn’t as sharp as I could be,’’ Miller said, “but you have to give them credit, too, they were taking some good pitches.’’
And because former Rays outfielder Brandon Guyer did what he does best, which was get hit by a pitch, this time with the bases loaded in the first inning to drive in the second Indians run after Jose Ramirez’s slow roller got them on the board against an uncharacteristically out-of-sync Lester.
“”I want to do damage to the ball, I don’t want damage to be done to me,’’ said Guyer, who was hit an MLB-most 31 times during the season. “But it’s part of my game, I guess.’’
Though heavily favored to win the Series, Cubs manager Joe Maddon — the former Rays’ boss — insisted they were not set back, despite striking out 15 times and getting a subpar outing from Lester, their ace.
“Listen, I’m not upset whatsoever,’’ Maddon said. “Like I said, they pitched really well tonight. Jonny pitched — wasn’t on top of his game, but really gave us a chance to win. That first inning, like I said, was unfortunate. Those three runs in the last inning make it look really awful, that six. I mean, (Hector Rondon) just hangs a slider and the guy hits a home run. Otherwise, it’s tightly contested, and who knows what happens in the last inning. The six runs makes it look more lopsided. ... So our guys are good. They’ll be ready to play (tonight).
Game 2 is Wednesday night, with first pitch moved up an hour to 7:08 due to a forecast of heavy rain late in the evening.