CLEVELAND -- The Chicago Cubs have advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1945, and it is because of the foundation built by GM Theo Epstein.
The Cubs slugged and pitched their way to the best regular-season record in baseball and back to the Fall Classic, and Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber is tasked with slowing down the lineup when he takes the ball for tonight’s Game 1 matchup at Progressive Field.
“They've got a lot of good hitters through their lineup, one through nine,” Kluber said. “It's not really much of a different story than we've had the last two series. Really good offenses, and it's just going to be a matter of going out there and executing.”
No matter who wins the World Series, one long-standing drought will come to an end at the conclusion of the postseason, as the Cubs (1908) and Indians (1948) are in the midst of the two longest active stints between championships in Major League Baseball.
“It's two teams that haven't won in a really long time, so one of those is going to be reversed in about a week,” Kluber said. “I think it's a good story, if nothing else, to have the two longest droughts without winning a title facing against each other. It's a good story and a background for the series.”
In what was a bounce-back year for Kluber record-wise after a 9-16 campaign in 2015, the right-handed ace regained his Cy Young form and went 18-9 with a 3.14 earned run average and 227 strikeouts against 57 walks over 215.0 innings of work.
Although Kluber’s strikeout numbers were down from each of the past two years, he allowed his fewest number of hits, 170, since 2013, when the Indians clinched one of the American League Wildcard playoff spots.
During the first two rounds of the postseason, Kluber registered 20 strikeouts against seven walks and allowed just two earned runs over 18.1 innings of work in three starts. Kluber has a 2-1 postseason record, with wins over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series and the Toronto Blue Jays in the Championship Series.
And Kluber plans on sticking with a winning formula, focusing on what is necessary and eliminating distractions ahead of tonight’s start.
“You're so wrapped up in the moment of trying to prepare and do everything you can to be ready,” Kluber said. “For me at least, it's been all about getting prepared and being ready when it is time to throw that first pitch. It will probably be something that will take more time to reflect on after the fact.
“It's just the way that I am when I'm out there competing and being locked in and stuff. I don't really worry about much else other than trying to get the guy out or whatever the task at hand is, and I think that's why I don't show a lot of emotion out there, because I'm so locked in and focused and whatnot, but it's not something I'm trying to manufacture or anything like that. It's just for me, that's how it comes out.”