Thanks to rain and the threat of even more rain, it took a while for the home opener to start. But after a delay of more than two hours, the Indians and Twins finally got things rolling at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
And although the Indians didn’t get their first base hit until an hour after that, the offense finally came alive in the sixth inning, scoring three runs on a solo homer from Yan Gomes and a two-run shot from Nick Swisher. Instead of trailing 2-0, the Tribe was now sitting on a 3-2 lead, and although the sun didn’t really come out from behind the clouds then, the spirits of Indians fans certainly grew a lot brighter. Another display of offensive power in the seventh put four more runs on the board, and the Indians went on to beat the Twins 7-2 on the 20th anniversary of the first game played at what was then Jacobs Field. It was the team’s first home opener victory since 2008.
Indians starter Danny Salazar looked shaky in the beginning, giving up two runs in the first on a double, a sacrifice fly and a solo homer. Even the outs he recorded were loud ones. The Twins also notched a walk and two singles in the second inning, and would have scored again if it weren’t for a strong and accurate throw to the plate by left fielder Michael Brantley. Salazar left the game with two outs in the sixth. The bullpen shone, with Josh Outman, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Blake Wood combining for 3⅓ innings of scoreless relief.
And speaking of relief, it was a pleasure to see the Indians put seven runs on the board. Twins starter Mike Pelfrey had the Indians stymied early on, not allowing a hit until the fifth inning. It was reminiscent of that first game at the new park 20 years ago, when Randy Johnson of the Seattle Mariners held the Tribe hitless over the first eight frames. After scoring a total of three runs in the first two games of the season, the Tribe scored six in their third game, followed by the seven they put up against the Twins in this game.
Things of note:
- Making his first-ever start in Progressive Field as a member of the Indians, centerfielder Nyjer Morgan misplayed the first ball hit his way in the first inning, when Brian Dozier led off with a double. Under ideal conditions, Morgan might have caught up to the batted ball, but it looked the rain-slicked outfield grass slowed him down. Instead of keeping the ball in front of him, Morgan let it get by him just long enough for Dozier to turn it into a double.
- Salazar did a good job of keeping the score close despite that rocky first inning. He was helped by the defense, sure, but for a while there it looked like he was going to put the Indians deep in the hole early on. Didn’t happen.
- Four Indians—Morgan, Swisher, Gomes, and DH Lonnie Chisenhall—had two hits on the day. Wait, what: DH Lonnie Chisenhall? I was skeptical when I saw his name listed as DH in the lineup, but in four plate appearances, Chiz got a single, a double, and a base on balls, and he scored twice. Perhaps Terry Francona knows more about managing a baseball team than I do.
- With that home run and his RBI double in the seventh, Nick Swisher had a great game, and his enthusiasm and his pride in being part of this team were a joy to see. As Ken Carman of SportsRadio 92.3: The Fan, wrote on Twitter: “You could huff all the paint in Sherwin Williams, and you still wouldn’t be as happy as Nick Swisher.” (Note to kids: please don’t huff paint, not even a little of it.)
- Thanks to all who contributed via comments in the open thread for this game, and for all the other games so far this season. Not only do we have a talented stable of writers here at IPL, we’ve got some pretty savvy readers and commenters, too, and we’re very grateful for your readership and your input.