#GoldNuggets: The Klubot
The Trivia: I was born in the Dominican Republic, where I grew up surrounded by All-Stars like Jose Bautista, Miguel Tejada and Erick Aybar. I played with the Dominican Prospect League, and was one of the first alumni to sign a contract with an MLB team. Last year, I earned my first Opening Day start, and this year, I’ve been one of the AL leaders in batting average! Who am I?
He works methodically, efficiently and expressionless, repeating his motion over and over and over again and getting remarkably consistent results -- a strikeout, a groundball, a lazy fly ball – so it’s easy to understand how Cory Kluber got the nickname “Klubot.” But underneath the steely look and robotic precision is a pitcher who is now being asked to make his third start of a World Series in Game 7, on short rest, with years of frustration on the line for the fans in both Chicago and Cleveland. Kluber, of course, was doing everything in his power to remove the human element from the equation and prepare himself physically and mentally to become the first pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1968 to win three World Series starts. "I spend a little more time doing the different methods of recovery that we have available here," Kluber said, explaining the adjustments he’d made. "But I still get the same amount of work in between starts, it's just a little more condensed. I haven't found much of a difference yet in how I feel when I get out there on three days rest as opposed to four." The 30-year-old right-hander is 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA, 15 strikeouts and just one walk over 12 innings in the series. He has 35 strikeouts and eight walks over 30.1 innings in the postseason. Usually, when a guy pitches on short rest in an important game, second-guessing comes along with the decision. But not this one. "Who else would you want?" second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "That's our guy. That's our stud. That's our bona fide ace. You ask everybody in here who we want on that mound, and you're going to get Corey Kluber as the answer."
The Shattered Myth
Whoever originated the myth that good players approach all games exactly the same way obviously never played in the seventh game of a World Series, so Chris Coghlan decided to shatter it once and for all. "If you say that, it IS a lie," the Cubs’ utility player told ESPN.com. "I think we say that as a way to try to normalize it for ourselves, so we don't get caught up in the same emotion that a fan does. But I think it's a lie when you try to dumb it down and act like it's really not that different. This is as much pressure as you can get. It's for the whole thing, with the whole season and 100 years all on the line. So you treat it as another game in how you prepare and how you think. But the reality is, it's not just another game. This is history. And that's what's exciting, because I think this team has always stepped up when the biggest moment presents itself." John Lackey, not one to show a lot of emotion, agreed with him. "It's Game 7 of the World Series," he said. "So anyone who says it's just another game is lying."
In fact, players were embracing the reality that the fortunes of both of these historically unlucky franchises would be on the line on Wednesday night. “If either team would’ve come in and swept the other, it wouldn’t have been as cool,” Jon Lester said. “We’ve got 68 years and 108 years, and we’re going to Game 7.” Ben Zobrist couldn’t think of a better way to conclude the season. "Regardless of what happens, one team is going to be shattered, and the other will be flying high,” Zobrist said. “So it's special. It's an incredible moment for both teams, but also for fans. And not just fans in Cleveland and Chicago. This one is for everyone."
The Boy Wonder
It is easy enough to be overlooked among the young stars in the Cubs’ lineup these days. So while people were talking about MVP candidate Kris Bryant, comeback kid Kyle Schwarber and three-time all-star Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell made a statement of his own in Game 6. The 22-year-old shortstop became the second-youngest player to hit a grand slam in a World Series after Mickey Mantle (Game 5, 1953) and the first player to hit one since Paul Konerko in 2005. His six RBIs tied a WS record. More importantly, however, Russell powered the Cubs to the brink of their first World Series championship since 1908. "I feel like that was the hit of the night there," Bryant said of the grand slam. "Anytime you can get four runs on one swing … that was huge. He's had a lot of big home runs this postseason and that might have been the biggest." It appears Russell, who hit 21 home runs with 95 RBIs during the regular season and is a Gold Glove finalist, might be a little too young to fully understand the historic implications of his once-in-a-lifetime performance. “This is just me figuring it out right now,” he said of his RBI record. “That’s pretty cool, you know? Tomorrow there is obviously an opportunity to break that record.”
“It was a little nuts when I went to some peoples’ door. Some lady who had to be about 60 was sprinting down the street because she didn’t answer the door. Saw it was me and Jon Lester walking around. It was a little crazy. But it was fun, it was a fun crazy. You know like, people were excited, and I don’t blame them.”
-- David Ross on trick-or-treating in Chicago during the World Series
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The Dance Move
If Addison Russell hadn’t hit the grand slam and drove in six runs in Game 6 we’d probably be talking more about his dance moves instead of a Game 7 today.
The Answer: Jose Ramirez