CLEVELAND -- The way the Cleveland Indians figure it, they’ve somehow got to find the answer, discover the magical formula, the perfect algorithm, if they’re going to win this World Series.
What they did Tuesday, slamming the Chicago Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 of the World Series at Progressive Field, well, that was simple arithmetic in their master plan.
You don’t need an Ivy League general manager to know that you’re going to win when you’ve got Corey Kluber starting and reliever Andrew Miller doing the rest.
If the Indians are going to use that combo two more times in this World Series, they’ve got to determine how they can come up with victories when anyone else steps onto the mound.
Those are worries for another day, because on this night, the Indians were too busy celebrating catcher Roberto Perez’s two homers and four RBI and the latest dominance of Kluber and Miller this postseason.
“I think there are guys who thrive on showing their emotions and wearing their heart on their sleeve,” Miller said. “That’s not Corey. I don’t know that if he went out there and started fist-pumping and beating his chest and swearing at the umpires that he would pitch any better.
“He is as good a pitcher there is in baseball.”
Anyone dare argue?
Kluber, who could win his second Cy Young Award in three years, is 3-1 with a 0.74 ERA this postseason, striking out 29 batters in 24 1/3 innings.
“There’s a fire though that burns in there that maybe people don’t see,” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona, who is 9-0 in the World Series. “I think he shows more of his personality in the clubhouse than maybe he ever will to the media, which is his choice. But his work ethic is probably second to none. I mean, his routines are impeccable during the year, and there’s a reason that he holds his stuff all year. Like his gas tank needle doesn’t start going down because he just gets after it every day.
“He’s kind of grown up into this pitcher right in front of us, and it’s been fun to watch.”
Well, except if you happen to be the Cubs, who watched Kluber set a World Series record by striking out eight of nine batters by the third inning. What made it even more painful was that their own GM, Jed Hoyer, was the one who sent him to Cleveland in the first place.
Hoyer, who was in his first year as GM of the San Diego Padres, badly needing a hitter to stay in the playoff race, traded a Class AA pitching prospect to the Indians in a three-way deal with the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
Ludwick, who hit .211 for the Padres in his stint, is out of the game.
Kluber and the Indians are three victories away from their first World Series title since 1948.
“There’s so much optimism going on in town right now,” said Indians senior vice president Bob DiBiasio, who has been with the franchise for 37 years, before the game. “It used to be, “Oh-oh, what’s going to go wrong next?
“But now, ever since the Cavaliers won, there’s a sense of belief it can happen for us too.’’
The Cavaliers, who celebrated their NBA championship with a ring ceremony down the street an hour before the Indians’ first pitch, have LeBron James.
And the Indians, as displayed Tuesday, have Kluber.
“We expect a shutout from him every time,’’ Perez said. “I don’t know where we’d be without him.’’
Kluber went six innings for the opening act, and Miller got on stage, and although this was hardly his usual vintage performance, he still brought the house down.
Miller got himself into a real mess in the seventh inning when Cubs second baseman Javy Baez loaded the bases with a single. Miller, taking a moment to remind himself that he’s still the nastiest reliever in the game, induced a shallow fly ball from pinch-hitter Willson Contreras for the first out. Shortstop Addison Russell struck out for the second out. And No. 9 hitter David Ross struck out to end the inning.
In the eighth inning, the Cubs had runners on first and third with two outs, and Kyle Schwarber at the plate.
Remember him? Schwarber was the guy who hit five homers in last year’s postseason, blew out his knee on April 7 and was activated in time for the World Series.
He became the first player in history to produce his first hit of the season, a leadoff double in the fourth inning, in the World Series. He stepped up, and with the huge throng of Cubs fans believing magic would happen, watched him strike out, ending the inning.
“We know there are times he’s going to strike out, especially with the time he missed’’ Cubs president Theo Epstein said before the game, “but we also believe there’s going to be a moment when he comes up at that special time, and come up huge for us.’’
Maybe, but not this time.
Cleveland, who has a dossier of ugly history, can now only hope this World Series trend follows course. The winner of Game 1 has won 12 of the last 13 World Series championships, and 24 of the last 28.
Maybe, as the Cavs proved, good things can actually happen to Cleveland sports teams?
“I don’t know if it’s just the group of guys that we have that we’re able to handle adversity well,’’ Kluber said, “or over the last couple years realized that’s the kind of baseball we need to play to be successful. Everybody kind of realizes that we each have our own job.
“It’s not one superstar going out there and carrying the team.’’
No, sometimes it takes two, even three.