By Bruce Levine–
CLEVELAND (CBS) — After 71 years on this stage, the Cubs lost 6-0 to the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The lone bright spot for Chicago was that it did regain a comrade with a big bat.
The Cubs welcomed back lefty slugger Kyle Schwarber, who missed the final 159 regular-season games and first 10 playoff games after tearing ligaments in his left knee in early April. Serving as the team’s designated hitter, Schwarber doubled to deep right field in his second at-bat off of Indians ace right-hander Corey Kluber.
Schwarber became the first player ever to get his first hit of the season in the World Series. That was made possible when he became the first player in big league history to return off the disabled list for the World Series after missing such an extended period of time.
Schwarber finished 1-of-3 with a walk. He had a strikeout in his first at-bat.
“It was a good day overall personally,” Schwarber said. “We wanted most of all for the outcome to be on our side. It was definitely a positive day for me at the plate.”
What was to be season-ending knee surgery in April for Schwarber turned into a near-miracle comeback after six-and-a-half months of hard work and rehab.
“How about Schwarber having not played all year and having some really great at-bats?” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I thought he had two really good at-bats against (Andrew Miller). I though his bat speed looked good.”
The Cubs’ first-round pick in 2014, Schwarber will start again at DH in Game 2 on Wednesday against Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer, Maddon said. Schwarber hit fifth in the order in the opener.
“The nerves, they were there at the beginning,” Schwarber said. “After that first at-bat, everything slowed down for me. It was good to get that first at-bat out of the way.”
The problem for Schwarber and the Cubs was that Kluber was pitching like the 1968 version on Bob Gibson. He scattered four hits in six-plus scoreless innings, striking out nine — including eight in the first three innings, which set a World Series record.
Star reliever Andrew Miller then worked through some tense moments in the seventh and eighth innings, when he stranded a combined five runners.
“We faced two premier arms tonight,” Schwarber said. “To be able to feel comfortable at the plate was definitely a plus for me. We had some chances, but Miller worked his way out of the jams.”
Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta will oppose Bauer in Game 2. Once again, Chicago will also be counting on Schwarber to bring the lumber.
“What I saw tonight is that he absolutely will start tomorrow.” Maddon said. “He has not been cleared to play defense as of yet. That will be a doctor’s call. He definitely passed the eye test for me regarding swinging the bat.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.