The 2016 banner was unveiled and the players received their AL Champion rings
The day started with the presentation of the Indians’ American League championship rings, and ended with a walk-off victory thanks to the player that had to watch that pennant run from the sidelines. With two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, and Francisco Lindor on first base, Michael Brantley doubled into the left field corner. Lindor scored all the way from first to give the Indians a 2-1 victory in their first home game of the season. It was a game dominated by pitching, and one in which the Indians blew several scoring opportunities. Despite the frustrating moments, fans went home happy in the first walk-off win in a home opener since 1999.
Lindor scores the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning
During the pregame ceremony, the sun was out and it was fairly warm (particularly considering some of the freezing home openers in recent Indians history). But by the first pitch the sun was mostly hidden behind clouds and a cold wind started to blow in off the lake. At the end of the 9th inning I joked “So how many are we playing today? 15 innings? 16?” Because it was starting to feel like neither team was going to be able to score a second run. And with all of my jokes about opening day ending badly, I figured this one would probably have many extra innings in the freezing cold before the Indians eventually lost. So it was a very pleasant surprise when the Indians were finally able to get a big hit when they needed it.
The Tribe actually jumped on the board early after Lindor hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 1st off of Chicago starter James Shields. But Shields was almost untouchable after that point, until the Indians finally got something going in the bottom of the 6th after a lead-off double by Abraham Almonte. After a Carlos Santana fly-out, Shields intentionally walked Lindor, and then unintentionally walked Michael Brantley to load the bases. This looked extremely promising – Shields was now gone from the game (pulled after the Brantley walk), the bases were loaded and Edwin Encarnacion was coming to the plate with just one out. However, the Indians have struggled with the bases loaded dating back to last season, when they hit just .228/.272/.277 with the bags juiced. Over the last several days they struggled mightily with runners in scoring position, going just 4-for-25 with RISP during the series with the Diamondbacks. In this case though, Encarnacion really just needed to hit a fly ball, and he’d be able to knock Almonte home on a sacrifice fly. Unfortunately, he grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The Indians’ next big threat came in the bottom of the 8th inning, when Almonte and Santana started the inning with back-to-back walks off of Nate Jones. A very promising start to the inning! Then Lindor came to the mound and bunted. I’m not sure if this was something he did on his own, or if Francona ordered it, but regardless it seemed bad to take the bat out of the hands of one of your hottest hitters and surrender an out. With runners on second and third, Jones immediately signaled for an intentional walk of Brantley to load the bases. Once again, Encarnacion came to the plate with the bases loaded, and once again grounded into a double play to end the inning. He’s really struggling right now and this was just an abysmal day for him…two rally-killing double plays and two strikeouts on the way to an 0-for-4 day.
Encarnacion isn’t the only person in the lineup that is struggling, and wasn’t the only person to have a terrible day today. Tyler Naquin went 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts, stranding 3 on base and Yan Gomes went 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts, stranding 3 on base – his average is now down to .056. It’s early and I think that Encarnacion will be okay once the weather starts to warm up and he’s able to get out of this slump. Gomes has had a rough start to the year, but once again has been plagued by a bit of bad luck – his BABIP is just .083. Naquin (like much of last year) has again been fairly lucky as far as BABIP is concerned – .364. I know that they’re probably going to opt to send Almonte down to the minors once Lonnie Chisenhall is ready to return from the 10-day DL, but at this point I’d almost rather see them send Naquin down. There’s going to come a time where his luck runs out…that mixed with his iffy defense leads me to prefer Almonte if I have to choose between the two. Almonte is a switch hitter with fairly even splits, so he could really fit in anywhere in any platoon situation. I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that he’s going to end up in Columbus soon, but I really think it should be Naquin.
While I (obviously) had numerous complaints about the offense, I have very few complaints about the pitching from Tuesday’s game. Carlos Carrasco pitched a great game; the only run he allowed was a solo home run to Todd Frazier in the 5th inning. Overall he allowed just 1 ER on 4 hits in 7 IP, striking out 7 and walking none. Andrew Miller didn’t have his sharpest outing, allowing 2 hits and pitching himself into a jam with runners on second and third and just one out. However, he got Tyler Saladino to line out to Yandy Diaz (who made a spectacular catch on the sinking liner) and got Tim Anderson to strike out swinging. Cody Allen pitched a perfect inning, striking out the side, while Boone Logan and Bryan Shaw combined for a perfect inning as well.
Even though they ended up with an exciting win (backed by strong pitching) the Indians still went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 8 men on base. Hopefully the bats can come to life against Derek Holland on Wednesday night, and Danny Salazar can build upon Carrasco’s strong outing in the home opener.
A few pics from the home opener: