CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The Cleveland Indians, lifted by the pitching of Corey Kluber and slugging of Roberto Perez, spoiled the long-awaited return to the World Series by the Chicago Cubs with a 6-0 spanking in Tuesday’s opening game.
Kluber became the first World Series pitcher to strike out eight of the first nine outs registered, as he outdueled Jon Lester, while catcher Perez blasted a pair of homers to drive in four runs as Cleveland claimed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven.
Kluber gave up four hits in six-plus innings, striking out nine with no walks to become only the third hurler to strike out nine without giving up a run in a Fall Classic opener after Cardinals’ Bob Gibson (1968) and Yankees’ Allie Reynolds (1949).
“There’s that extra level of excitement, anxiety but once you get out there and the game starts and you get in the flow it all disappears,” said Kluber, who was pitching in his first World Series game.
“You kind of get in your comfort zone just playing the game.”
With relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen following Kluber to the mound, Indians pitchers registered 15 strikeouts.
Hitting star Perez, who had only three homers in the regular season and said he felt comfortable at the plate, seemed even more enthused by Kluber’s performance.
”It’s fun, he (Kluber) just attacked hitters,“ Perez said. ”We got ahead of hitters today. He’s been doing that the whole year. He’s our ace. Every time he steps on the mound I expect big things from him.
“He was awesome.”
The Indians seized a lead they never relinquished with a two-out, two-run rally in the first inning on two hits, including an RBI squibbler, two walks and a run that crossed the plate thanks to a bases-loaded hit batsman by Lester.
Cleveland added another run the more conventional way on a line drive solo homer by Perez in the fourth, and a three-run blast in the eighth by the catcher finished off the Cubs, making their first appearance in the World Series in 71 years.
“I thought we came out ready to play. They pitched well,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
”The first inning, what hurt us was the walks, not even the dribbler or the hit batter. It was the walks prior to that really hurt us.
“Then their nine-hole hitter Perez kicked us. He drove in four points today, so give him a lot of credit.”
Cleveland, looking for their first Series crown in 68 years, took quick advantage of an unusual phobia of Lester.
The left-hander, who entered the game with a brilliant World Series resume compiled with the Red Sox, has the yips over throwing to first base to hold baserunners on.
Francisco Lindor singled with two outs in the first and with Lester reluctant to throw over to hold him close, took a big lead and stole second base with ease.
The Indians subsequently scored two runs were on their way.
Game Two will be on Wednesday in Cleveland before the Fall Classic shifts to Chicago for Game Three on Friday. Due to threat of rain, Wednesday’s game will start at 7 p.m. ET (2300 GMT), an hour earlier than originally scheduled.
The Cubs will start Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta against Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer, who left his last start after blood began gushing from his pinky finger that was injured while he was handling his drone.
Writing by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Andrew Both