CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs are about set to compete for the World Series Championship, and it will be a battle of aces in Game 1 from Progressive Field tonight.
The Indians, champions of the American League, will send Corey Kluber to the mound, and the National League Champion Cubs will counter with Jon Lester, a two-time World Series titlist with the Boston Red Sox.
The Cubs slugged and pitched their way back to the Fall Classic, and Kluber is tasked with slowing down the lineup when he takes the ball for tonight’s Game 1 matchup.
“They've been the best team in baseball all year, so 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.”
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 las 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 has 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 record, with wins over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series and the Toronto Blue Jays in the Championship Series.
“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,” Kluber said.
Most of the Cubs have never been to the World Series before, but Lester sure has. Lester pitched the Red Sox to World Series titles in both 2007 and 2013.
According to Lester, Cubs manager Joe Maddon talks a lot “about staying in the moment” and having everything being “relevant to what we’re doing now.” And what the Cubs are doing now is trying to continue an historical run through the postseason.
“I try to harness my emotions, but these stages sometimes, you know, I pitch with emotion and all that stuff,” Lester said. “Sometimes, it comes out, but as far as is pitching, I believe as I got done saying, it's a cookie-cutter answer, but you execute your fastball, you execute your pitches. It works the same here as it does during the season. So I just try to take that mindset.
“You have a routine, you have the stuff that you're supposed to do day-in and day-out to prepare your body and prepare your mind for these moments. I feel like when I'm in that routine and I show up, now it's the fun part. Now, you get to pitch. You spend the other four days kind of busting your butt and sitting around to get to this point.”