Indians rally to defeat Twins on Opening Day, 7-2
Tribe offense fights back to win first home opener since 2008
CLEVELAND—There’s no place like home.
Back at Progressive Field for the first time in over six months, the Indians wouldn’t let a few raindrops get in the way of Cleveland’s most unofficial holiday.
Down 2-0 in the bottom half of the sixth, the Tribe outscored Minnesota 7-0 over the final four frames, defeating the Twins, 7-2. The win gave the club their first home opener victory since 2008.
“I was just so proud of the way our guys fought,” first baseman Nick Swisher said. “Maybe that will be the identity of this team this year. That we’re going to fight.”
The offense would have to do some fighting early on against Twins starter Mike Pelfrey, as the right-hander took a perfect game into the fifth inning. But just like they did 20 years ago when the ballpark first opened its gates in 1994, the team would fight and claw their way back.
After being held scoreless through five innings on one hit, catcher Yan Gomes got the rally going with a solo homer off Pelfrey to put the Tribe on the board in the sixth.
In front of a sold out Progressive Field, Swisher belted a two-run homer to the seats in right field, sending 41,274 fans into a frenzy as the Indians took a 3-2 lead. The hit even dazed Swisher, who held onto the bat halfway down the first base line as he watched it sail over the wall.
“I was just so excited,” he said. “Opening Day and a packed house, with the situation we were in, just to be able to put us ahead right there I was happy about that.”
Two batters later, Pelfrey’s day was done, taking the loss surrendering three runs on three hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“In my mind the turning point in the game was when Plush [Morgan] bunts him over to second base in that situation,” Swisher said. “It gave me a lot more confidence, where all you have to do is hit something in the outfield.”
The Cleveland offense wasn’t done, scoring another four runs in the seventh inning, highlighted by a two-run single by Michael Brantley which sealed the victory.
“What really got us going was Gomer and Swish,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. The way we were swinging, two runs looked like it would take a lot. It goes to show if you keep it close and hang in there, you’ve got a chance.”
Gomes and Swisher combined went 4-for-9 with two doubles, two home runs and four RBI.
Not to be forgotten in the ballgame was a solid pitching performance by starter Danny Salazar.
The 23-year-old looked shaky early, surrendering two runs in the first while serving up a long ball to Twins designated hitter Chris Colabello. The right-handed phenom would settle in though, tossing 4 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball before exiting with one out in the sixth.
Salazar scattered just five Twins hits on the afternoon, while also walking and striking out three.
“I was really proud of the way Danny went out and did his thing today,” Swisher said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but fought and battled and got us there.”
“We have nine gritty guys that are going to put together quality at-bats every day,” Swisher said. “We don’t have that one big superstar, so we have to do it collectively. That’s kind of our thing.”
He may have not lived up to his huge contract last year, but this year has been fun for Swisher and the team already.
“Whether you want to say fun causes winning or winning causes fun, either way I think we have a great mix of both of those so far.”
Cleveland (3-1) improves to an undefeated 3-0 when holding the opposition to four runs or less.
Up next for Indians: Saturday afternoon baseball, as the Twins battle the Wahoo’s in the second of a three game series at 1:05 p.m. Carlos Carrasco will make his first start of the season against Minnesota right-hander Kyle Gibson.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think Johnson is useful (and that will just strengthen the case to demote Chisenhall for his roster spot, even if Pestano also gets demoted), but again, offense is at least if not a bigger concern at this point, as you'd expect the pitching to improve, at least to some extent. Plus, other team's pitchers are not in midseason form either either, yet the Indians' offense is doing very little outside of two games to this point. The opposing staff's pitching may round into better form as well as we go along- that would signify we need to keep as much offense as possible, and Chisenhall is expected to provide (and is delivering) offense.
You would hope Kipnis will do better, but his track record so far is inconsistency throughout the season- you don't know how long it will take him to get into one of those hot streaks. Cabrera looks a bit better so far, but still am not sure how much offense he'll really provide. Murphy's bat looks slow; if it doesn't start picking up in terms of speed, he may not be as much of an offensive contributor as we thought and may have to be more the bench player, one who plays more sparingly in the platoon role (instead of Raburn, with Chisenhall being in the lineup as the left-handed bat instead of Murphy and Raburn being in the OF instead of Murphy).
It's early, but these look to be the early trends, and why I think a strong case can be made that Chisenhall should stay, Pestano should head to Columbus, and Johnson should be DFAed (doubt he accepts an assignment to Columbus, though that would be ideal).
Plus, being that he has been moved down in the bullpen pecking order (i.e. More of a 6th to 7th inning guy rather than a true backend guy), he's not as bound to get regular work as he did a few years ago. He'd likely be better served being as part of the backend in Columbus so that he can get regular work in, hone his command, and get back to the consistent dominance he was showing. Truth be told, I would have had Lee in Pestano's spot and had left Pestano in Columbus, because he had these performances during Spring Training, showing to me he is not back. Plus, reports suggest his velocity isn't where it once was either.
While I can see the reasoning for Chisenhall being demoted, the constant back-and-forth is probably not going to help his bat at the ML level- it hasn't before. I can see him working on his defense and versatility, but Lonnie's biggest attribute was always to be his bat, not his defense.
The fact he's showing quality at-bats to start the season (something he really hasn't done before) would be all the more reason to leave him up here, never mind the fact you have some black holes on offense (namely Kipnis, Cabrera, and Murphy). You need as much consistent offense as you can get, and while Giambi can provide a jolt every now and then, you can't rely on his bat for consistent offense anymore.
Personally, I'd demote Pestano, go to a 7-man bullpen, activate Giambi (or Bourn, whichever is coming off of the disabled list first), and be sure Chisenhall is in there most to all of the time against RHP, even if that means Murphy's time has to be reduced a bit and Raburn needs to play a little more in RF, with Chisenhall DHing (and playing 3rd with Santana DHing). The Indians' rotation will hopefully do better the second time around, as really only Masterson and Salazar had good or solid outings (Salazar had to battle, but did keep the Indians in and nearly went six innings), with Carrasco providing the third-best outing. You would hope that Kluber and McAllister will do considerably better next time around, which would lead to needing one less reliever; add in the fact the Indians have had trouble scoring runs, and you need all the offense you can get.
After watching Wood last night I would assume it would be very difficult to send him down. Without the benefit of the radar gun I am almost certain he was in the upper 90's If he continues to pitch like that I can see him being the first one up if anyone in the back end of that bullpen falters
If there's a chance that Chisenhall finally "gets it" and is developing into a patient, selective hitter, then he'll do a lot of damage in the bigs.
A couple years ago everyone wanted him to be the opening day starter at 3B even though he had no mlb experience. They were wrong about that they could well be wrong that he won't turn it around as well. He has the stroke to be a solid hitter.