CLEVELAND -- The Chicago Cubs may believe they have figured out what makes Corey Kluber so effective and how to adjust their approaches at the plate accordingly after facing him twice in the 2016 World Series.
However, heading into Game 7 at Progressive Field, the Cleveland Indians remain confident that their staff ace can answer the call one last time this season and close out a championship run for the ages for a franchise without a title since 1948.
“That's a good feeling, and I know they love their guy too, as they should,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It's Game 7. You've got two really, really good pitchers, and it will be exciting. It's an honor to even be a part of it, and we're going to give it everything we have. I can't imagine a better group of guys to go through something like this with. I'm looking forward to it already.”
Kluber was dominant in his first World Series start, and he made an early lead stand up in a 6-0 win over the Cubs in Game 1 of the Fall Classic from Progressive Field last Tuesday night.
Over six-plus innings of work, Kluber surrendered just four hits to the offensive-minded Cubs. He registered nine strikeouts and did not surrender a run or walk. It was the third time in four starts this postseason that Kluber did not surrender a run.
Kluber was historically good over the first three innings of Game 1, as he set down eight Cubs hitters on strikes.
Those eight strikeouts were a World Series record over the first three innings of a single game. Orlando Hernandez and Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson each registered seven strikeouts over the first three innings of a World Series game.
Also, the eight Ks set the Indians’ franchise record for the most punch-outs in a World Series game. The previous record of seven was set by Orel Hershiser in the 1995 World Series and equaled by fire-baller Jaret Wright during Game 7 of the 1997 Fall Classic.
Then, the Indians rode Kluber’s solid pitching and timely hitting to beat the Cubs, 7-2, in Game 4 of the World Series at Wrigley Field last Saturday night.
In six innings, Kluber allowed just five hits, one walk and one earned run against six strikeouts. Kluber found a way to strand five Cubs runners and registered his first postseason hit in the top of the second inning.
“The way he treats his body, the way he works his routines, I think good players, good pitchers can do special things,” Francona said. “He's in that category. I mean, you've seen what Andrew Miller has done. You saw what Chapman did the other day. I mean, we don't have the market cornered on all the -- there's some pretty good players and teams out there, but it was kind of an easy decision after talking to him.”
During five postseason starts, Kluber has registered 35 strikeouts against eight walks and allowed just three earned runs over 30.1 innings of work. Kluber has a 4-1 postseason record, with one win each against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series and the Blue Jays in the Championship Series, and two against the Cubs.
“It's funny because I got asked that about Kluber the first playoff game,” Francona recalled. “It was like, ‘How do you think he reacted?’ And it kind of surprised me because I never gave it a thought. I mean, I never really thought, ‘Boy, I hope he's okay.’ I just knew he'd be okay.”