Indians right-hander Corey Kluber shut the pair down Tuesday night during the Cubs' 6-0 loss in Game 1 of the World Series -- much as Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw did in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
They combined to go 0-for-7 in each game against former Cy Young Award winners. In eight plate appearances Tuesday night, neither of them hit the ball particularly hard. Bryant whiffed twice and walked. Rizzo popped up four times. Of those four popups, the three against Kluber were above 64 degrees according to Statcast™, which Rizzo had done just eight previous times in 2016.
"I thought [Kluber] had tremendous movement on the ball," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "When Kluber's going good, he's got such good late movement on his both fastball and breaking ball, and I thought he had both tonight."
In the Dodgers series, which the Cubs took in six games to win their first pennant in 71 years, there was plenty of time for Rizzo and Bryant to get back on track. It's noteworthy that the second time around, in Game 6 against Kershaw, the Cubs won, 5-0, and the two went 3-for-8 with a pair of runs scored and a pair of RBIs.
The left-handed-hitting Rizzo hit his second home run of the series in the pennant-deciding game. The Cubs could face Kluber again as early as Game 4 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field.
"It's nice to know to know that we're probably going to face him again," Bryant said about Kluber, who set an Indians' World Series record by striking out nine. "You learn from your at-bats against him. That's exactly what we did in the last series against Kershaw. He pitched a great game against us. We learned from it and came out and had a really good game against him."
The Cubs struck out 15 times against three Indians pitchers -- Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. It was the third time this postseason that the Cubs have been shut out. In the NLCS, they were whitewashed in Games 2 and 3 -- games started by Kershaw and Rich Hill -- until the bats began generating some power in the last three games of that series.
After the consecutive shutouts, the Cubs outscored the Dodgers, 23-6. Rizzo and Bryant were 3-for-14 in the shutouts, and 10-for-25 in the next three games.
Another 0-for-7 in the Fall Classic opener could certainly be more of an anomaly.
"For me, primarily I think K.B. chased pitches out of the zone today, but again, Kluber does that to a lot of folks," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "And with Anthony, he fouled his pitch back a couple times. When I talked to him on the mound during a pitching change, he was very upset with himself because he's seeing the ball really well right now. When your hitters tell you they're seeing the ball well, you can take some solace in that, too."
As is his nature, Maddon didn't sound particularly concerned. Like the NLCS, the Cubs still have plenty of time in a best-of-seven set to figure it all out.
"I'm not disappointed by any means except for the fact that we did not win," Maddon said. "I have no concerns. I thought we were ready to play. Our guys looked really good. They were great in the dugout today. It's the first game. I'm fine. We're fine.
"Overall, I was not disappointed. I know we had 15 punchouts, I get it, but the quality of the at-bats were not that bad."