Opening Day is a time of high hopes and big dreams. Everybody starts from the same place and it only takes one hit to be batting 1.000. The way the Indians have played the last several years, those high hopes are typically dashed by the second inning. For the last four seasons, it seemed that even getting an Opening Day win was akin to doing the impossible, like the ant moving a rubber tree plant in the old Sammy Cahn song. Still, Opening Day comes, we get all Charlie Brown mushy about the game’s return, and the high hopes take over again.
The Indians played their first game of the 2013 season tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was a night of walks, passed balls, wild pitches, thrown bats (two), and general settling into the new season. The Jays started knuckleballer (and Cy Young Award Winner) R.A. Dickey, and for the first few innings it was only by the grace of the funky physics of the knuckleball that the Tribe got men into scoring position or scored any runs. (We scored twice in the 2nd inning.)
Justin Masterson started the game and the season by walking Jose Reyes, which isn’t exactly how you want to get things going. Later that inning he gave up a single to Jose Bautista and hit Edwin Encarnacion with a pitch. While he managed to get out of it without giving up any runs, it wasn’t pretty. He threw 70-some pitches in the first three innings. Then something happened–actually, a lot of somethings happened. Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis turned a double play in the 3rd with no outs and the bases loaded, which resulted in the only Jays’ run of the night. And it sparked something of a turnaround in the way the Indians were playing. Masterson started to settle down, retiring the last 10 Jays batters he faced. By the third time through the lineup, the Indians were getting the hang of Dickey’s knuckleball. Michael Bourn started off the 5th inning with a single, then Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-run dinger that put the Indians ahead 4-1, and that’s all it took.
Last Opening Day, Justin Masterson left the game in the 8th inning with a 4-1 lead in a game the Indians ended up losing 7-4 in 16 innings. Somehow, when Joe Smith came in at the top of the 7th, I didn’t see a repeat of last year’s debacle happening. Instead, my high hopes were fulfilled. Smith and Vinnie Pestano went 1-2-3 in the 7th and 8th, and Chris Perez retired the first two batters of the 9th before giving up his obligatory suspense-building double as a prelude to striking out Colby Rasmus to end the game.
Like most Tribe fans, I have high hopes for this season. Will there be disappointments? Sure. A June swoon? Maybe. A second-half collapse? Hope not. For now, I’m just going to revel in the Opening Day win and keep on singing.