Tomorrow’s World Series narratives today


We’ve talked a lot about narrative lately, but that’s all pregame to the crowning jewel of narrative season: the World Series.

The big narrative: that whoever wins four out of seven games is and always was special and uniquely destined for this. There will be lots of post-facto story-telling after each victory and especially after the series is over. Folks looking back at seemingly random and inconsequential event X from earlier in the season which, now that we see how history unfolded, clearly meant that history was going to unfold just so.

But that’s easy. The narratives that are more fun are the individual ones. The “Kevin Millar kept the team loose” and “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit” kinds of things.  Had the Steelers and Red Sox lost in 2004 and 2006, respectively, those tales would have dried up pretty fast. Or changed to “Kevin Millar and his idiots didn’t take things seriously” and “Jerome Bettis had too many social obligations in Detroit” kinds of things.  Winning and losing changes the story.

Let’s see if we can get ahead of the game here, shall we?  Some off-the-top-of-my head narratives coming to a broadcast or next-day column near you:

  • Barry Zito: Everyone’s looking for a redemption story, and as the improbable Game 1 starter [all together now] two years after he was left off the playoff roster, Zito is the most likely candidate. Good luck to those of you who can find the personal hardship angle for a guy who still has another year left on his $126 million contract, has had to endure living in the most beautiful city in America for the last 13 years and somehow soldiers through the day married to a gorgeous woman.
  • Justin Verlander: Because we’re finally acknowledging that Miguel Cabrera has a World Series ring, I presume Verlander will be the focus of the “he needs a ring to cement his legacy” thing. If he throws a no-hitter tonight but the Tigers lose in six, you see, he isn’t a good pitcher. If he gets beat up in two World Series starts but the Tigers still manage to win, he’s achieved his crowning glory.
  • BONUS LEGACY: Jim Leyland will likely get the Miguel Cabrera treatment from someone. You know, with folks forgetting that he also has a World Series ring thanks to his time in Florida. I bet we can’t go the next week without someone saying that winning this year would validate him somehow.
  • Miguel Cabrera/Buster Posey: As the MVPs presumptive, they will no doubt have every at bat analyzed more closely than others. As they should, of course. But do be on the lookout for Tim McCarver reminding us, in the event one of them struggles, that the MVP ballots were submitted prior to the beginning of the postseason and that none of this takes away from their worthiness for the award.
  • Phil Coke/Hunter Pence: We love both of you, but sorry guys, there can only be one clown prince/crazy guy/oddball per World Series, which means that whichever of you finds yourself on the winning team should be prepared for an offseason full of feature stories. Well, more feature stories, as each of you have already received that treatment already this postseason. The loser, though, will disappear from view.
  • BONUS QUIRKINESS: Though he has contributed zero to the Giants 2013 season, Brian Wilson has a Lifetime Pass in the quirky narrative, so be ready for the myriad shots of him doing zany, zany things in the dugout during Giants rallies.
  • Delmon Young: Postseason God: Delmon Young is a not good player who has had a few big hits in the past couple of postseasons. I figure that we will soon learn that this is a talent of his and that is somehow makes him less of a miserable person who can’t play baseball very well.  In non-narrative news, I also wonder if a couple of big World Series hits won’t land him a way-too-good-for-him contract next season.
  • Detroit Ruin Porn: Did you know that every Detroit sports team since 1968 has carried the forlorn hopes and shattered dreams of a blighted city on its shoulders and that, if they win, everything will be OK in the Motor City once again, at least for a little while?  It’s true! Enjoy your sidebars and photo slideshows of burnt out buildings and abandoned neighborhoods. Bonus points if the reporter takes on the hushed and portentous tones of some someone visiting blighted sub-Saharan Africa or whatever.

That’s all I got for now. I’m sure some more of these will pop up. Because if there’s one thing we in the media love doing is to apply storylines and to assign personal and moral worth to the outcome of sporting events.

Video: Jonathan Lucroy who? Roberto Perez homers twice in World Series opener for the Indians

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Roberto Perez #55 of the Cleveland Indians hits a three-run home run during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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Back in July, then-Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy vetoed a trade that would have sent him to the Indians, helping the club make a significant upgrade behind the plate after losing Yan Gomes to an injury. At the time, Roberto Perez had only played in 11 games, batting .043. Gomes had hit .165 before his injury, and Chris Gimenez batted .202 over 42 games. It was not much of a logical leap to think the Indians would eventually falter due to a lack of production at the catching position.

But here the Indians are in the World Series facing the Cubs. In Game 1 on Tuesday night, Perez — who finished the season with a .183 average and three home runs in 184 plate appearances — drilled a pair of home runs, accounting for four of the six runs the Indians would score in a shutout win over the Cubs.

Perez’s first blast was a solo that that just cleared the left field fence at Progressive Field, coming on an 0-1 fastball from starter Jon Lester. That padded the Indians’ lead to 3-0.

The second homer put the game away, as he punished reliever Hector Rondon for hanging a 2-2 slider with two runners on base, slugging this one enough to clear the left field fence by plenty. That doubled the Indians’ lead to 6-0, the score by which they would eventually win.

Perez is the first catcher to homer twice in a World Series game since Gary Carter did it for the Mets against the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Perez is the first Indian to homer twice in the same playoff game since Jim Thome in the 1999 ALDS against the Red Sox.

Corey Kluber dazzles as Indians blank Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 of the World Series

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

From the moment Kris Bryant struck out looking for the second out of the first inning in Game 1 of the World Series, the Cubs knew Indians starter Corey Kluber brought his A-game and that they were in for a long night. Bryant was Kluber’s second strikeout victim in as many batters and he would go on to strike out eight batters through the first three innings, setting a World Series record.

The Indians, meanwhile, gave Kluber an early cushion, scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning. Francisco Lindor hit a two-out single, then stole second base against starter Jon Lester. Lester proceeded to walk Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to load the bases. Jose Ramirez brought one run home with an infield single to the left of the pitcher’s mound. The lefty then hit Brandon Guyer with a pitch to force in another run, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.

The Indians scored one more run in the fourth inning when catcher Roberto Perez snuck a solo home run over the fence in left field, victimizing Lester yet again.

The Cubs struggled to get any kind of momentum going, wasting a leadoff double by Ben Zobrist in the second inning and a two-out double by Kyle Schwarber in the fourth. Through six innings, Kluber yielded only three hits with zero walks and nine strikeouts. He took the mound to start the seventh but departed after Zobrist led off with a single to left field.

Reliever and ALCS MVP Andrew Miller entered the game, but the Cubs seemed to have a better time against him. Schwarber drew a walk and Javier Baez singled to left, loading the bases. At the very least, it seemed, Miller would give up at least one run, if not two. The average team scored two runs with the bases loaded and no outs, according to Baseball Prospectus. But Miller showed why he was named the MVP of the ALCS, getting Willson Contreras to fly out to shallow center. Schwarber thought the ball would drop, so he was way off the second base bag, but center fielder Rajai Davis didn’t notice and fired home to ensure a run didn’t score. Despite the mistake, Miller rebounded by striking out Addison Russell and David Ross to escape the inning with no damage done

Miller returned to the mound for the eighth inning for his second inning of work. After getting Dexter Fowler to fly out, he walked Bryant. Miller got Anthony Rizzo to fly out to shallow center, but Zobrist singled to center to put runners on first and third with two outs. On his 46th pitch of the night, Miller struck out Schwarber to escape the inning.

Perez decided to double the Indians’ lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the eighth. Cubs reliever Justin Grimm walked Guyer and allowed a single to Lonnie Chisenhall, forcing manager Joe Maddon to replace him with Hector Rondon. Rondon hung a 2-2 slider and Perez crushed it, this time clearing the fence by plenty for a three-run homer. He’s the first catcher with two homers in a World Series game since Gary Carter in 1986.

Closer Cody Allen, who thought he was going to be used in a save situation, took over in the top of the ninth. After striking out Baez, Contreras doubled to right field. Allen then struck out Russell as well as pinch-hitter Miguel Montero to end the game in a 6-0 victory for the Indians.

Game 2 of the World Series will start an hour earlier than usual on Wednesday due to forecasted inclement weather late at night. Jake Arrieta will make the start for the Cubs opposite the Indians’ Trevor Bauer.