By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Chicago Cubs have been the talk of the town after making the World Series for the first time since 1945 with a chance to win it for the first time since 1908. But most of the national media seems to have forgotten that there’s another team across the diamond, and it’s led by a manager whose next World Series loss will be his first.
Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians got the best of the Chicago Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 of the 2016 World Series on Tuesday night. Cleveland starter Corey Kluber heavily padded his postseason resume with a historic performance, becoming the first pitcher to strike out eight of the first nine batters in a World Series start and finishing with six shutout innings. The Cubs’ Jon Lester, meanwhile, allowed two runs in the first inning and that was all that the Indians needed.
Plenty of credit goes to Kluber and catcher Roberto Perez, who launched two home runs and drove in four runs to put the game out of reach for the Cubs. But the main reason the Indians’ lead felt insurmountable for much of the night was Kluber, who is now 3-1 with a 0.74 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 24.1 career postseason innings (four starts).
“We need him, and we’re going to need him more,” Francona said of Kluber after the game. “His routines and his work ethic, that’s why, here late into October, the needle on the gas tank doesn’t point towards empty.”
But the story to start this series is Francona, who is the only manager in major league history to win his first nine World Series games. You know full well how the Red Sox thoroughly dominated both World Series they played under Francona. That’s what the Indians looked like on Tuesday.
Francona is now 36-19 in his postseason career as a manager, which is the best winning percentage (.655) among all managers with at least 50 postseason games, according to MLB.com. He has a long way to go to catch Joe Torre in career postseason wins (80), or Tony La Russa (70) or Bobby Cox (67) for that matter. But he has a chance to pass Casey Stengel (37) with a World Series win this season.
Francona has pushed all the right buttons for the Indians, who are 8-1 in the 2016 postseason. In-game tactics are important for managers – perhaps more important than Dave Dombrowski would tell you – but the most important thing for Francona is that he has his team playing their absolute best baseball at the best possible time.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.