Cubs-Indians 2016 World Series: Kyle Schwarber's return, at least, was a success

CLEVELAND -- The Cubs lost Game 1 of the 2016 World Series to the Indians, 6-0, in Progressive Field on Tuesday night. The pitching trio of Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen dominated for most of the night, as has become the custom this October.

If the Cubs can find any silver lining, it's that the much ballyhooed return of young slugger Kyle Schwarber was a success. In fact, under the circumstances I'd call it an overwhelming success.

"There's a lot of hard work that went into it, and I'm just grateful for the opportunity," Schwarber said afterward.

Schwarber struck out in his first at-bat against Kluber, but nearly everyone was doing that. Kluber struck out eight through three. Plus, it bears repeating a point I made earlier that facing Arizona Fall League pitchers in two different games is a far cry from a Cy Young winner in the World Series. Not to mention that Kluber's two-seamer through the front door on lefties was making them look silly all night.

Of course, Schwarber nearly hit a home run in his second at-bat, crushing a Kluber pitch off the right-field wall for a double. It was the furthest ball the Cubs hit off Kluber.

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Kyle Schwarber nearly takes Corey Kluber deep in Game 1. USATSI

The hit made Schwarber the first (non-pitcher) player in MLB history to collect a hit in the World Series after having zero hits in the regular season. So it took him two at-bats to better deal with Kluber than his teammates while also making history.

"I told him congrats on his first hit of the year," catcher David Ross said with a laugh. "He put together some great at-bats and it's especially impressive against guys like [Corey] Kluber and [Andrew] Miller."

Ah yes, Miller.

Next time up, Schwarber came to bat with one on and no out in the seventh. Indians manager Terry Francona elected to go with Miller, who might as well be called The Destroyer against lefties at this point. Schwarber coaxed a walk.

How rare is that? In the regular season, Miller allowed only one walk to a left-handed hitter in 74 plate appearances while holding them to a .189 on-base percentage. Prior to Game 1, he's only given up two walks in the entire postseason (both against righties) while holding everyone to a .171 on-base percentage.

Amazing numbers for Miller, obviously, but also a nice illustration of how Schwarber saw the ball well on Tuesday. Again, remember he's only seen a pitching machine and minor leaguers -- in two games -- since April 7.

"He accepted the walk against Miller the first time, that was outstanding," manager Joe Maddon said.

"I'm impressed," said shortstop Addison Russell. "His at-bats looked great tonight. Even that punchout, that was a 3-2 count. He went up there with a plan, stuck to his plan and it obviously worked."

It wasn't only the Cubs who were impressed.

"He didn't show any rust, did he?" Miller said. "You hope somebody like that is either having to cheat for balls or do something. His first at-bat was so good, unfortunately for us he (crushed the ball) in his second at-bat. I don't think we can write him off as someone who's rusty or not ready to play. It's impressive."

While by no means was this shocking, the smart money was on Schwarber going something like 0-for-4 with two strikeouts -- again, under the circumstances. Instead, he squared up one against a Cy Young candidate and drew a walk against arguably baseball's best reliever in a platoon disadvantage.

That is downright remarkable. Some of baseball's best players need several weeks on a rehab assignment after an absence that long before diving back into the bigs. It's a testament to how special Schwarber can be with the bat.

"It's kinda scary," Russell said, regarding Schwarber's ability to rise to the occasion under the circumstances. "With him, it's always a different story."

Schwarber did strikeout against Miller next time up, as Russell said, but there's really no shame in that at this point. He hasn't seen a slider that nasty in 2016 and maybe never has from a lefty. It's that good.

The final line was 1-3 with a double and a walk against two of the best pitchers in the world -- and arguably, the toughest lefty anyone could face in the here and now.

"It definitely gave me confidence," Schwarber said. "Those guys are two great pitchers with great arms. I feel comfortable at the plate."

Maddon saw enough to already state that Schwarber will again be in the lineup for Game 2 and he even got too far ahead of himself.

"What I saw today is that he absolutely will start tomorrow," Maddon said. "I didn't even realize this, but before the game we were talking about can he play at Wrigley, and [director of media relations] Peter Chase corrected me, [Schwarber] has not been cleared to play defense yet."

Still, the offense is what Schwarber brings and it was there in Game 1.

So if the Cubs are looking for a silver lining after the loss, look no further than the guy who hadn't seen any game action since the third game of the 2016 season.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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