CLEVELAND — As the World Series opened on Tuesday night, the matchup — between two perennial losers — carried the weight of history.
The pitching matchup was enticing, too. The Cleveland Indians sent out Corey Kluber, their ace and the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner. Jon Lester, the Chicago Cubs’ starter, had allowed only two runs in 21 innings this postseason.
Only Kluber rose to the occasion, though, felling the Cubs like a buzz saw as Lester’s wayward command allowed the Indians to take an early lead that, behind a bullpen led by Andrew Miller and a late flurry, turned lopsided. On a night that Cleveland, so recently starved for a championship, hosted a ring ceremony for the Cavaliers, the Indians took a big step toward a title with a 6-0 victory.
With a dizzying array of dancing fastballs and darting curveballs, Kluber, making his World Series debut, struck out eight of the first 11 batters he faced, becoming the first pitcher in Series history to fan that many in three innings.
With six dazzling innings, he shut down a Cubs offense that had exploded past the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. In all, Kluber allowed four hits, throwing 88 pitches while becoming the sixth pitcher in World Series history to strike out at least nine and walk none.
That was not too far off from how Kluber had pitched all through this postseason: He had struck out 20 and allowed 13 hits and two runs across three starts and 18⅓ innings.
Lester, on the other hand, could not complete the sixth inning, halting his hot streak this postseason. Only once in 17 previous playoff starts had Lester come out of the game earlier.
The first pitch of the game held extra significance. Dexter Fowler, the Cubs’ leadoff hitter, became the first African-American player to appear in a World Series game for the Cubs. The pitch also opened the first World Series game the Cubs, who last appeared in the title round in 1945, have played at night, as well as on television.
The moment, however, was not meaningful only for the Cubs. Across the street from Progressive Field, the Cavaliers were beginning their defense of their N.B.A. title at Quickens Loans Arena as the Indians began a pursuit of their own.
When the video board at the basketball game showed the Indians had seized a first-inning lead, the crowd there roared. Back at Progressive Field, a brief clip of the Cavaliers’ ring ceremony and a speech by their star LeBron James were shown on the gargantuan screen in the middle of the sixth inning, and that received loud cheers.
The noise paled, however, in comparison with the roars at three critical moments: when the Indians took control in the first inning, when Kluber left the game to a standing ovation and when Miller wriggled out of two potentially game-changing jams.
In the first, the star Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor singled and then exploited one of Lester’s weaknesses — his inability to throw to first — by stealing second base. That may have rattled Lester, and he undid himself, walking Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to load the bases.
With a swinging bunt chopper to third base, Jose Ramirez drove in a run. Lester pushed the Indians’ lead to 2-0 when he hit Brandon Guyer on the leg with a two-strike pitch.
Three innings later, the light-hitting catcher Roberto Perez smashed a solo shot off Lester. He clobbered a three-run blast in the eighth inning, becoming the first Indians player to hit two home runs in a World Series game.
After Lester notched the second out of the sixth inning, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon pulled him with his pitch count at 97.
Despite Lester’s unevenness and Kluber’s brilliance, the Cubs still threatened in the seventh inning.
There have been no more ominous words this postseason than “entering the game is Andrew Miller.” Acquired by the Indians in a midseason trade with the Yankees, Miller has given a boost to an already-strong bullpen and helped carry the team.
When Kluber gave up a single to Ben Zobrist to start the seventh inning, Indians Manager Terry Francona emerged from the dugout. Kluber’s pitch count was relatively low, but Francona had Miller to call on and wanted the option to start Kluber on short rest in Game 4.
Normally stoic, Kluber flashed a smile when Francona reached the mound. He exited to a rousing applause from many of the announced 38,091 in attendance.
In came Miller, who promptly walked Kyle Schwarber and gave up a single to Javier Baez to load the bases.
For a few moments, Miller appeared human. But he snapped back into his brilliant form, getting Willson Contreras to fly out and striking out Addison Russell and David Ross on wicked sliders.
Miller again backed himself into a corner in the next inning by surrendering a walk and a single, but he wriggled out yet again. He fired 46 pitches over two innings, paving the way for closer Cody Allen to toss the final inning in Cleveland’s first World Series win since Game 6 in 1997.