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Cleveland Pitches a Masterpiece to Take Game 1

Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller weren't perfect, strictly speaking, but the Cleveland Indians' effort was even more impressive than that to open the World Series.

by Robert O'Connell
Oct 26 2016, 3:52pm

Fox

There is, of course, a set of requirements for an official perfect game. No batters reaching base aside, though, the Cleveland pitchers threw one of the most perfect games I've ever seen in Tuesday night's 6-0 victory in Game 1 of the World Series. The Cubs didn't stand a chance.

Things started with Corey Kluber. The Indians ace has always seemed to get a little less fanfare than he deserves, maybe owing to the fact that his stuff is kind of foggy in nature, made up of subtle but immaculate breaks instead of eye-widening sweeps, or to his glacial pulse. In front of a rowdy Cleveland crowd, Kluber did his even-keel thing for six innings. He struck out nine—eight in the first three frames—walked none, and scattered four hits (one of them, joyously, a double from fortune's favorite son, Kyle Schwarber). His pitches all looked like one another. Hitters expected the cutter to bend off the plate and instead watched the two-seamer run back to catch it; they fouled off the four-seamer on the corner and then, thinking they were seeing the same offering again, waved at a so-long slider.

The announcers talked about Kluber's "painting," in the sense of sliding his pitches right along the strike zone's edge, but what his performance really brought to mind was the brushwork of an actual artist, working in layers, applying accents, backgrounds building up to ornaments. Kluber walked out, set down three Cubs quickly, and walked back, again and again, allowing himself a grin only when Terry Francona came out to remove him after a single at the start of the seventh. It wasn't a punitive hook but a preparatory one; Francona will likely want Kluber to pitch on short rest in Game 4.

If you've watched the Indians at all over the past few weeks, you know who came on in Kluber's place. Andrew Miller often dominates, but his scuttling may be more impressive. Right away on Tuesday, he walked Schwarber and surrendered a single to Javy Baez, and the bases were loaded with no outs. Miller then got Willson Contreras to pop out to shallow center on a slider, and threw two more mercury breaking balls to Addison Russell and David Ross for strikeouts. Before the last of these, the television cameras lingered on him standing still atop the mound in what can only be described as a "gunslinger shot": glove at one hip, ball at the other, forearm-length sleeves fluttering in the cold Ohio breeze. It was fucking awesome.

Miller labored through one more inning, giving up another hit and walk and driving his pitch count higher than it has been all season but ending up with a scoreless frame all the same, before Cody Allen came on to wrap things up in the ninth. By then, the Indians had turned a three-run lead to six, and the mind drifted from the impressiveness of the Cleveland pitching to its repeatability. When Trevor Bauer and his drone-damaged pinkie take the mound Wednesday evening, they might not have the overworked Miller as backup; the Game 1 win may well come at the cost of Game 2. Cleveland's rotation remains injury-hampered, and the soft-throwing Josh Tomlin still plays a larger role than the Indians would prefer. But watching Francona chomp his seeds and plot out his innings in the dugout, you sense that he's got it all figured, somehow. If his arms bring the magic, he'll get them their chance.

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