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Tom Williams: Underdog Tribe, ace strike early and often

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Everyone’s favorite underdogs — the Cleveland Indians — needed a strong start from their ace Corey Kluber to have any chance against America’s darlings, the Chicago Cubs.

Kluber delivered one for the ages, striking out eight Chicago Cubs in the first three innings of the 2016 World Series.

Kluber broke the Series record for most strikeouts in that span. He finished with nine (a club record) in the Indians’ 6-0 victory in Game 1 on Tuesday at Progressive Field.

It was a magical night for 38,091 inside the ballpark and thousands more outside. While the Cavs celebrated their championship banner next door, the Indians took a huuuuge first step toward their first title in 68 years.

Don’t believe in magic? How else to explain how No. 9 hitter Roberto Perez clubbed two homers (a solo shot in fourth and a three-run shot in eighth) to power the offense? He’s the first Indians batter to homer twice in one World Series game.

“I don’t think I’ve [ever] had a night like [this].” Perez said.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was impressed.

“Their nine-hole batter kicked us, man,” Maddon said.

The Indians’ first run was scored on a bases-loaded infield hit that didn’t travel 45 feet in the first frame. Jose Ramirez came through with that clutch hit against Cubs ace Jon Lester, two-time Series champion.

Lester then hit Brandon Guyer to double the lead.

Kluber’s performance was the key. To start the game, Kluber whiffed Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant twice each. He also struck out Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Chris Coghlan and Addison Perez.

He threw six-plus shutout innings, scattering four hits.

“His balls had extremely good movement tonight,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.

The Cubs had their chances after Andrew Miller relieved Kluber in the seventh inning. The Cubs loaded the bases with no outs. Miller retired the next three Cubs.

An inning later, Ben Zobrist’s third hit of the game put runners on the corners with two outs. Miller struck out Schwarber.

Closer Cody Allen recorded the final three outs, launching a hot celebration in the chilly night.

“Kluber was outstanding, but I thought we did a good job against Miller,” Maddon said. “I’m not upset whatsoever.”

Kluber credited his catcher Perez for calling a strong game.

“His confidence, you can see it growing every game,” Kluber said of the backstop known more for his defensive prowess.

“He’s so consistent,” said Perez of Kluber. “We didn’t make many mistakes tonight.”

Next up is Game 2 tonight that will begin an hour earlier (7:08 p.m.) because of a rainy forecast. Trevor Bauer says he’s ready to go and his injured pinkie on his pitching hand is up to the task.

Bauer said he threw about 20 pitches in a simulated game on Monday.

”It feels fine,” Bauer said. “Threw it ... as close to game intensity as I could possibly get to.

“There’s no pain, no blood. I was able to execute all my pitches to a high level and I am really encouraged by it.”

Before his ALCS Game 3 start in Toronto last week, Bauer said doctors “were confident it would be OK.”

It wasn’t. Bauer didn’t escape the first inning because of blood dripping of his hand.

“I was confident it would be OK, it hadn’t bled the two days before,” Bauer said.

Francona is confident Bauer is ready to go.

“I don’t think that finger’s going to be the reason he wins or loses,” Francona said.

Who’s up for another magic trick?

Tom Williams is a sportswriter at The Vindicator. Write him at and follow him on Twitter, @Williams_Vindy.