Game One of the 2016 World Series is in the books – a 6-0 Cleveland win. There were expected (Corey Kluber) and unexpected (Roberto Perez) heroes, a notable turning point (seventh inning), 24 strikeouts (15 recorded by Cleveland pitchers) and three players who started the Series with three-hit games (Ben Zobrist, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez).
How meaningful will this Indians win be? That remains to be seen, but since the best-of -seven format came into play, Game One Winners have a 109-60 edge in World Championships. Still, with Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks on tap for the next two games, I like the Cubs’ chances.
Here are a few random observations from Game One.
A is for Apple. B is for Bat. … K is for Kluber – an Expected Hero
Corey Kluber, who started on the mound for the Indians, was an expected hero. The 2014 Cy Young Award winner was the staff ace in 2016, going 18-9, 3.14 and fanning 227 batters in 215 innings. He set the tone from the start, fanning eight over the first three innings (a WS record for the first three frames) and whiffing nine (versus four hits and no walks) over six shutout innings. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen added six more strikeouts to wrap up the 6-0 shutout. A couple of observations: Kluber threw just 88 pitches, which opens options for how he is used (three starts or two starts and a relief appearance) later in the Series. ALCS MVP Andrew Miller threw 46 pitches in relief, which may limit how he is used in Game Two.
Core Kluber’s outing works to magnify Bob Gibson’s dominance when he fanned a World Series single-game record of 17 – as his Cardinals topped the Tigers 4-0 in Game One of the 1968 WS. Gibson threw three complete games in that Series (1.67 ERA), fanning 35 in 27 innings.
An Unexpected Hero
Number-nine hitter Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez – who hit .183, with just three home runs in 61 games in the regular season and was hitting just .174 in the post season – was hardly considered a likely offensive hero. All he did was belt two home runs in four at bats and drive in four of the Indians’ six runs.
Before Roberto Perez’ two-home run inaugural World Series game, the only other catcher to homer twice in his first WS game was the Oakland A’s Gene Tenace in 1972. Tenace, who had hit .225 with five home runs in 82 regular season games and was hitting .059 in the post season (ALCS), went on to hit .348 in the WS, with a Series-leading eight hits, five runs, four home runs and nine RBI. The A’s topped the Red in seven games, despite being outscored 21-16. Tenace was the WS MVP.
Some may say the turning point came when Corey Kluber took the mound. For my money, it came in the top of the seventh when Cubs’ LF Ben Zobrist opened the inning with a single off Kluber – followed by a walk to DH Kyle Schwarber and a single to 2B Javier Baez (both given up by Andrew Miller, who had replaced Kluber), loading the bases with no outs. Miller went on to retire pinch hitter Wilson Contreras on a short fly (runners holding) to center and SS Addison Russell and C David Ross on swinging strikeouts. The Cubs failed to score after loading the sacks with no outs. Game. Set. Match. Kudos to manager Terry Francona to sticking to his pitching plan in that tense inning.
It’s Not Always Power
While four of the Indians’ tallies came on home runs (Roberto Perez with two), the other two runs scored on a bases-loaded infield single (3B Jose Ramirez) and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch (LF Brandon Guyer). That Guyer should “take on for the team” should be no surprise. Guyer led the American League in HBP with 31 this past season (in just 101 games). Guyer was also the AL HBP leader in 2015, with 24.
A Perfect World Series 9-0
Indians’ Manager Terry Francona is piloting his third World Series and has yet to lose a Fall Classic game. In 2004, his Red Sox swept the Cardinals and in 2007 his Boston squad topped the Rockies 4-0. Now, if only the TV commentators would stop referring to him as “Tito.” Yes, I know it’s his nickname, but my mind always seems to revert to his dad – John Patsy “Tito” Francona – whom I saw play often in his 15-seeason (1956-70) career as an MLB OF/1B. Terry, by the way, was an MLB OF/1B from 1981-90.
While Terry Francona s’ streak of managing nine World Series wining games (still active) without a loss is an MLB record, the record for consecutive World Series game wins managed belongs to Joe Torre at 14 (1996 – Games Three-through-Six versus Braves; 1998 – four-game sweep versus Padres; 1999 – four-game sweep versus Braves; 2000 – Games One and Two versus Mets.
Hope from Rehab
Cubs’ DH Kyle Schwarber, out with an injury since early April, was activated for the World Series. Schwarber who had knee surgery in mid-April was not expected back this season. He surprised a lot of people yesterday, picking up a double and a walk in four plate appearances. In 2015, as a rookie, Schwarber hit .246, with 16 home runs and 43 RBI in 69 games and then hit five home runs in nine post-season contests. The Cubs are hoping his power has an impact in the 2016 Series.
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