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Kluber, Indians shut down Cubs to take World Series opener

CLEVELAND -- The formula for the Cleveland Indians this postseason has been to grab a lead early and rely on an overpowering bullpen to hold it. That makes the Chicago Cubs' primary task to avoid playing from behind, and on Tuesday, they learned firsthand how important that variable is to the Cleveland equation.

Indians starter Corey Kluber overpowered the Cubs for six shutout innings before giving way to American League Championship Series MVP Andrew Miller in the seventh, and closer Cody Allen finished as Cleveland beat Chicago 6-0 in the opener of the World Series.

The Indians moved to three wins away from their first championship since 1948. Meanwhile, the Cubs played their first World Series game since 1945 but are still looking for their first run in the Series since Game 7 against the Tigers in that long-ago season.

All through the postseason, Cleveland manager Terry Francona has turned to his relievers as soon as his starters have shown signs of trouble. For Kluber, that moment never really came. He set a World Series record by striking out eight Cubs in the first three innings, including five looking. He finished with nine strikeouts and didn't walk a batter.

The Indians gave Kluber their much-desired early lead by nicking Jon Lester for a pair of first-inning runs, despite getting just one ball out of the infield. Francisco Lindor singled, stole second, moved to third on two walks and scored on a swinging bunt by Jose Ramirez. Lester then hit Brandon Guyer with a pitch to drive in the second Indians run.

Entering the game, Lester had allowed just one run in 21 career World Series innings and just two runs in his three previous playoff starts this season. He pitched out of trouble in the third but allowed a solo homer to Roberto Perez in the fourth to make it 3-0. The third run was ominous for Lester and the Cubs: Cleveland improved to 70-1 this season after leading a game by at least three runs.

Lately, that has been largely because of Miller, who came on for Kluber when Ben Zobrist singled to lead off the seventh. Uncharacteristically, it took Miller a couple batters to settle in. He walked Kyle Schwarber to start, just the second lefty hitter he has walked all season. Javier Baez then singled to load the bases.

Miller quickly found his stride, though, as he got Willson Contreras on a weak fly to center and struck out Addison Russell and David Ross. He followed by throwing a scoreless eighth, but it came with a bit of drama. Miller walked Kris Bryant and gave up a two-out single to Zobrist. Then he struck Schwarber out to end the threat. Miller has now thrown 13⅔ scoreless innings in the postseason and hasn't allowed a run in his playoff career, spanning 13 appearances and 22 innings.

Perez expanded the Indians' lead to 6-0 in the eighth inning, when, on a 2-2 count with two outs and two runners on, he hammered a Hector Rondon pitch for his second home run of the game.

The loss was the Cubs' third shutout loss of a postseason in which their offense has been up and down, from scoring frequently to not at all, usually depending on the quality of the opposing pitcher. Kluber, a leading candidate for the AL Cy Young award, joins an elite list of starters the Cubs have battled in the playoffs, including Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill.

The bright spot for the Cubs was the return of Schwarber, who started at designated hitter and batted fifth in Joe Maddon's lineup. Schwarber doubled in the fourth for his first hit of the 2016 season.

The win capped a raucous day in downtown Cleveland. Besides the start of the World Series and the festivities that entails, the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers raised their title banner and opened their season next door at Quicken Loans Arena. The streets were packed with the colors of the Indians, Cubs, Cavaliers and even a few New York Knicks aficionados on one of the busiest days ever in Cleveland sports.

Things will be a little more calm Wednesday, but only a little as Jake Arrieta tries to even things up for the Cubs in Game 2 against Cleveland's Trevor Bauer, he of the bleeding pinkie. Major League Baseball announced during Game 1 that the start time of Wednesday's game would be moved up an hour because of a rainy forecast. The scheduled start time is now 7:07 p.m. ET.