Cubs

Kluber, Miller continue domination as Cubs drop Game 1 of World Series

Kluber, Miller continue domination as Cubs drop Game 1 of World Series

CLEVELAND - The Cubs proved Andrew Miller is not immortal.

Well, sort of.

The Cubs actually put some pressure on the ALCS MVP with the 0.00 career ERA in the postseason, but Miller pitched out of a pair of jams to thwart the Cubs' only true threats.

Behind Miller's Houdini acts and Corey Kluber's pitching, the Indians went on to claim Game 1 6-0 in front of 38,091 fans at Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland.

Kluber was on all night, striking out eight in three innings to set a World Series record. He finished with nine whiffs to set a new Indians postseason record.

The Cubs managed just four hits off Kluber and he didn't walk a batter to lower his 2016 playoff ERA to a ridiculous 0.74.

"We lost, so we just move on," Anthony Rizzo said. "I don't think anyone's really hanging their head. It's just moving on and being ready to go."

Kyle Schwarber launched a double off Kluber in just his second at-bat in the big leagues since April 7, missing a homer by a matter of inches in the fourth inning.

But the Cubs' offense didn't put together a solid threat when Ben Zobrist knocked Kluber out of the game with a leadoff single in the seventh.

Miller came in and promptly walked Schwarber and surrendered an 0-2 hit to Javy Baez to load the bases with nobody out.

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The Cubs looked poised to mount a comeback against a guy who had not allowed a run in 20 career postseason innings, including 11.2 scoreless frames this October entering the World Series.

But Miller buckled down, inducing a shallow fly ball from Willson Contreras that wasn't deep enough to score Zobrist before Addison Russell and David Ross struck out swinging to end the inning.

The Cubs challenged Miller again in the eighth when Kris Bryant walked and Zobrist singled for his third hit of the night, but Schwarber whiffed on two massive swings to strike out and end the inning.

Miller may have kept the shutout intact, but the Cubs also forced him to throw 46 pitches, his most since September 2011. That could have an impact later in the series, including Game 2 Wednesday night.

Jon Lester, meanwhile, struggled in the first inning and put the Cubs in an early hole.

After getting two quick outs, the co-NLCS MVP gave up a single to Francisco Lindor, who then stole second base, before walking the next two batters to load the bases.

An infield hit plated one run and then Lester plunked Brandon Guyer with an 0-2 pitch to force in another run.

Lester allowed another run came on a homer from Roberto Perez - a lined shot to left field that hit the railing just above the wall.

Perez broke the game open in the eighth with a three-run blast off Hector Rondon. The backup catcher only had 11 homers in 422 at-bats over three big-league seasons before this October.

"Yeah, listen, I'm not upset whatsoever," Maddon said. "They pitched really well tonight. Jonny pitched - wasn't on top of his game, but really gave us a chance to win. That first inning was unfortunate. Those three runs in the last inning make it look really awful, that six. I mean, Ronnie just hangs a slider and the guy hits a home run.

"Otherwise it's tightly contested, and who knows what happens in the last inning. The six runs makes it look more lopsided. But I have no concerns. I thought we were ready to play. Our guys looked really good. They were great in the dugout today. It's the first game. I'm fine, we're fine.

The Cubs and Indians will square off in Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday night. The game was moved up an hour to 6:08 p.m. Chicago time with a threat of rain in Cleveland.

"It's big," Rizzo said. "We need to win. We need to win every game. It's no bigger than it was this game. Tomorrow will be the biggest game of the year. So will Games 3 and 4."

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.