CLEVELAND -- Whether it be painting the corners with his fastball or getting good movement on breaking pitches, Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber had a little bit of everything working his way against the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field Tuesday night.
Kluber registered nine strikeouts in six-plus innings of work, including a World Series record eight Ks over the first three frames. Those nine strikeouts set the franchise’s single-game record in the Fall Classic, and paced the Indians to a 6-0 win over the Cubs and 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“I don't know if there is one thing you can put your finger on,” Kluber said. “Obviously, there's more riding on each game. Not that there is less importance on a regular-season game, but it's almost like you have that extra level of intensity or focus and stuff that it's not really something you can replicate. If I had to guess, I'd say that, but I'm really just trying to treat it like any other start. Just trying to go out there and get outs as quick as I can and try to go deep into the game.”
Kluber’s eight strikeouts over the first three innings of Game 1 bested the previous record of Orlando Hernandez and Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson, each of whom registered seven strikeouts over the first three innings of a World Series game.
Also, the nine Ks bested the Indians' previous record for the most strikeouts in a single World Series game, which was set by Orel Hershiser in 1995 and equaled by fire-baller Jaret Wright during Game 7 of the 1997 Fall Classic.
In the top of the first inning, Kluber set down the first two hitters, center fielder Dexter Fowler and third baseman Kris Bryant, looking and swinging respectively before getting first baseman Anthony Rizzo to pop out to third base.
Cubs left fielder Ben Zobrist led off the second inning with a double to the gap in right-center field, but Kluber settled in and struck out the next three hitters to short-circuit any potential rally from Chicago.
In the bottom of the third inning, Kluber gave up a one-out single, but again registered all three outs via the strikeout as he got shortstop Addison Russell looking and Fowler and Bryant swinging.
Over those six-plus innings of work, Kluber surrendered just four hits to the offensive-minded Cubs. In addition to the nine strikeouts, he did not surrender a run or walk. It was the third time in four starts this postseason that Kluber did not allow a run to score.
In his three previous postseason appearances, Kluber allowed seven free passes.
By throwing just 88 pitches, Kluber could very well come back on short rest for Game 4 in Chicago Saturday as well as Game 7 if it is necessary at Progressive Field next Wednesday should Indians manager Terry Francona need him to do so.
“I'll pitch whenever he asks me to. I think at this point in time, it's all about doing whatever we can to get four wins before they do. If that means pitching on short rest, then I'm more than willing to do that. I don't think you'd find anybody who would turn down a chance to go out there and pitch right now.”