Game 2: Still much ado about Kluber

By Shane Nicholson 
Managing Editor

The Cubs return to Progressive Field tonight for Game 2 of the World Series, hoping to even up the score in Cleveland before coming home to the Friendly Confines on Friday. (Important note: the game starts one hour early at 6:08 p.m. so you might as well just pick up some dinner on the way home.)

Before we dive into Jake Arrieta‘s matchup with Trevor Bauer, let’s do a quick post-mortem on Game 1’s 6-0 loss.

Corey Kluber was throwing a wiffleball last night. Working with nothing but a two-seamer and a “What the hell is that?” breaking ball, the Indians starter mowed down the Cubs lineup, needing just 88 pitches to get through six-plus innings, posting nine strikeouts (five looking). He made professional hitters appear very very silly.

So that’s a thing.

When he got done brow-beating the Cubs’ historically good lineup, Andrew Miller took over. The lefthander gave hints of being human, quickly loading up the bases after replacing Kluber. But a pop out from Willson Contreras (which should have been a double-play) and strikeouts of Addison Russell and David Ross ended the Cubs one real good spell of the game.

• If Kyle Schwarber can walk, Kyle Schwarber will be able to hit a baseball. Much of the analysts’ chatter pre-Game 1 focused on the young catcher-cum-left fielder-cum-DH. The expectations of the FOX crew varied from he’ll never reach base to his legs will fall off in the clubhouse.

But Kluber made one mistake, a 93 mph fastball which was possibly his only pitch of the night that didn’t move a good six-and-a-half feet from left-to-right. Schwarber laid a double off the right-center field wall that on most nights would have found its way to the bleachers. It was Schwarber’s first showing in seven months and it wasn’t terrible, which is pretty great for the Cubs seeing as they still have at least one more game he can DH in.

Which gets us to Game 2, Wednesday night. Arrieta can stop the bleeding and send the Cubs back to Chicago with home-field advantage in a five-game series. Given the heavy use Miller saw on Tuesday night, there’s a good chance Cubs hitters will avoid the unbeatable man. That just means that, if they’re unable to get to Bauer early, the Cubs will have to deal with the only-slightly-more-beatable-man Bryan Shaw in an attempt to level the series.

The likelihood of the Cubs bats lying dormant through another game isn’t that great. Bauer has been shakey the back-half of the season, posting a 6.39 ERA in September and October and giving up three earned runs in 4.2 innings of work in his start against Boston in the ALDS, before he took up modifying drones with the blades switched on as a hobby.

And let’s be honest here: Chicago has faced Clayton Kershaw and Kluber in back-to-back postseason games. At least they got to one of them; now they just have to take advantage of the lesser parts of Cleveland’s rotation to establish a foothold in this World Series.

Make no mistake, they need to do it Wednesday and Friday, because come Game 4 at Wrigley on Saturday Kluber will be back on the mound. Short rest? Sure, but he threw only those 88 pitches Tuesday night and the Cubs didn’t appear to have an answer for nearly any of them, and if this series goes the full seven he’ll be back out there for the final game, too.

Which leaves the Cubs with one solution to bring the first World Series title back to the Northside since 1908: figure out how to beat Kluber, or beat everyone else in Cleveland’s rotation. They get their chance to work on the latter with Arrieta taking the mound tonight.

Curse Watch

The Cubs have been shutout in their last three losses this postseason. The last time they scored a run and lost was Game 3 of the NLDS in San Francisco.

Jon Lester and David Ross became the third pitcher-catcher battery to start Game 1 of a World Series for two teams, having won the 2013 title with the Red Sox. The last pair to do it, Paul Derringer and Jimmie Wilson, won both the 1931 World Series with the Cardinals and the 1940 title with the Reds.

And Wednesday is the 11-year anniversary of the White Sox winning the World Series, the club’s first in 88 years. If you’d forgotten about it, don’t worry, you’re not in rare company.

Levity

Game 2 of the World Series is tonight at 6:08 p.m. on FOX39 and WSCR 670AM.

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