CLEVELAND -- How good was Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber 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 innings of play, all of which paced the Indians to a 6-0 win over the Cubs and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“I thought he had tremendous movement,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “When Kluber’s going good, he’s got such good late movement both fastball and breaking ball, and I thought he had both. His balls had extremely good movement.”
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 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.
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 got all three outs via the strikeout as he got shortstop Addison Russell looking and both Fowler and Bryant swinging.
“He gets such great movement both directions with his cutter and his comebacker,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He was hitting his edges. He pitched well. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He pitched well.”
Over those 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.
In his three previous postseason appearances, Kluber allowed seven free passes.
“In these playoffs, he’s been about as good as…and we need him and we’re going to need him more,” Francona said. “He prepares so hard, and we’re talking about before the game, his routines and his work ethic. That’s why, here late into October, the needle on the gas tank doesn’t point towards empty.”