World Series Game 1 Recap: Heroes Known and Unknown
The beautiful thing about the World Series is the stage itself. Players can exist in relative anonymity for years, doing their thing, underrated by the vast majority of the sports viewing world, until they reach the Fall Classic.
Cleveland Indians starter Corey Kluber isn't exactly an unknown. The guy is a former Cy Young Award winner and could potentially win his second such award after his excellent 2016 season. But he has not been a household name.
At least, not until last night.
Kluber was dominant in Game 1 of the World Series and was ably aided by super-reliever Andrew Miller and unheralded catcher Roberto Perez' two-homer night to give the Indians a 6-0 win and an early 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven Fall Classic.
Winning Game 1 of the World Series has been huge, if recent history is to be our guide.
The @Indians take #WorldSeries Game 1. The winner of Game 1 has won 6 straight and 24 of the past 28 World Series
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 26, 2016
According to our projections, too, the Indians now have a small leg up.
Corey Kluber Owns
Kluber was as nasty as he gets in Game 1, starting off the game by striking out eight batters through the first three innings, the first pitcher ever to record a strikeout on eight of his first nine outs.
I mean, just look at this filth.
Kluber went six-plus innings and struck out nine batters, with no walks, no earned runs and just four hits allowed. In fact, when manager Terry Francona pulled him in the seventh inning, after giving up a lead-off single with a 3-0 lead, he had thrown just 88 pitches.
He probably could have stayed in the game longer, but Francona didn't want to risk allowing Chicago Cubs hitters to see him a third time through the order.
It's unlikely it would have mattered much, given the way he was dealing.
He has now struck out 29 batters in 24 1/3 innings this postseason. His ERA is a doable 0.74. In today's baseball, you don't need four great starters to win the World Series. You really only need just one stud and a bunch of other guys and a lights-out bullpen.
Cleveland has their stud. They also have a Randy Johnson clone in the 'pen.
Andrew Miller Is Unfair
It shouldn't be fair. It really shouldn't. The Indians shouldn't be simply allowed to roll out Miller whenever they feel like it because the man is almost impossible to hit against.
In Game 1, Miller did what he has done since joining Cleveland at the trade deadline this year. He entered the game when it mattered most, this time in the seventh inning after Kluber allowed a lead-off single to Ben Zobrist (who had three hits on the night). Miller did himself no favors by walking the returning Kyle Schwarber and allowing a sharp line-drive single to Javier Baez, loading the bases with no outs, protecting a 3-0 lead.
If the Cubs were going to come back in this game, it was going to happen here. After all, when teams load the bases with nobody out, they score an average of 2.27 runs in that situation (per Baseball Prospectus). But that fails to take into account the fact Andrew Miller is not a normal mortal.
Miller then came on and pitched the eighth and wiggled his way out of another jam, this time a first-and-third, two-out pickle, only to strike out Schwarber, who was the tying run, at the plate.
Last night, Miller faced 10 Cubs hitters. The most batters he'd faced in any game this year was eight. In his postseason career, he has faced 78 batters and struck out 34 of them. That's a strikeout rate of 43.6%. He has now thrown 218 pitches in the playoffs, which is more than any other pitcher in this postseason except for Kluber, Chicago's Game 1 starter Jon Lester, and Kyle Hendricks.
And after Cody Allen came out to record the final three outs in the ninth inning, the combination of Kluber, Miller, and Allen had combined to throw 58% of Cleveland's postseason innings this season.
Miller, the American League Championship Series MVP, now has struck out 24 batters in 13 1/3 innings this postseason. He has yet to give up a run.
It's simply unfair.
Jonathan Lucroy Who?
Just prior to the trade deadline, the Indians swung a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers to acquire stud catcher Jonathan Lucroy, only to have Lucroy nix the trade. So, with Yan Gomes on the shelf for the rest of the season, the Indians turned to the less-than-well-known Roberto Perez, who has turned into an outstanding defensive catcher.
His offense during the regular season left something to be desired. In 184 plate appearances he hit .183/.285/.294 with 3 home runs. But he wasn't in there for his offense.
So, of course, on the biggest stage, he became an offensive force.
Here's Hammy's call of @robperez2015's second blast, a three-run shot that put the game away! #RallyTogether pic.twitter.com/3U2tgE2XiX
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) October 26, 2016
That was Perez' second homer of the game and his third of the postseason, equalling his regular season tater total. His first put the Indians up 3-0 in the fourth, and his three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth put the game away.
With his multi-homer game, Perez joined an exclusive list of catchers who have pulled off that feat. Some of them you've heard of before.
Yogi Berra. Gene Tenace. Johnny Bench. Gary Carter.
And now @robperez2015. https://t.co/EU2JYJhJzr #WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/vd68ULKGIQ
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) October 26, 2016
Perez also became the third player in franchise history to have a multi-homer game in the World Series, joining future Hall of Famers Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.
The postseason creates some strange bedfellows.
With their shutout win, the Indians did something only a select few teams have done in the playoffs.
The @Indians’ 4th shutout of the #postseason ties an @MLB record – held by 4 teams that won the #WorldSeries. pic.twitter.com/ofHKKXOpok
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) October 26, 2016
Of course, the series is far from over, as the Cubs will throw Jake Arrieta against Trevor Bauer in Game 2, which starts an hour earlier than normal because of the threat of weather late on Wednesday night.
Chicago has the pitching matchup in their favor and will look to bounce back from a disappointing performance in Game 1.