New Era for Cleveland Begins With a Win; Indians 4, Blue Jays 1
by Bob Toth
In front of a sellout crowd of 48,857 at the Rogers Centre, baseball finally resumed for the cities of Cleveland and Toronto. The notion of facing the knuckleball pitcher and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Dickey did not seem to intimidate the new look Indians.
Cleveland scored the first runs of the evening and of their season in the second inning with some assistance from Dickey and catcher J.P. Arencibia.
Indians left fielder Michael Brantley led off the inning with a groundball single to the right of second base. Carlos Santana followed with a weak fly to center for the first out. A passed ball during Mark Reynolds’ at bat moved Brantley to second and the Indians designated hitter would draw a walk several pitches later. A second passed ball in the inning moved both runners ninety feet closer to the plate, and a Lonnie Chisenhall groundout to short pushed Brantley across with the game’s first run.
Toronto returned the favor in the bottom of the third. Melky Cabrera singled to right and advanced to second base on an error by Stubbs. Masterson walked the always-dangerous Jose Bautista after working the count full. After getting ahead of Edwin Encarnacion, Masterson fell behind and then walked the slugger, loading the bases for Adam Lind.
Lind, however, sent a 1-1 bullet to Asdrubal Cabrera at short to start a 6-4-3 double play. The Blue Jays’ Cabrera scored on the play, making it a 2-1 ball game, but the twin killer defused the Toronto threat. Arencibia ended the inning and stranded Bautista at third looking at a called third strike with the count full.
“Going back to Cabrera’s play, you’ve got the bases loaded,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “The whole game swings on that one play. They get one and then we get out of it. That’s a big swing in the game.”
The Tribe plated another pair to lead off the fifth. Dickey gave up a leadoff single to center to Bourn, his first as an Indian. Cabrera followed with a towering drive that cleared the wall in right, giving Cleveland a 4-1 lead.
The night for Dickey (0-1) ended after six innings. He was charged with four runs, three of which were earned, on five hits. He walked four, equaling his season-high from all of 2012, and struck out four.
“We didn’t knock him all over the ball park. But again, he won the Cy Young last year,” Francona said. “We had chances every inning, which is good. We took some walks. He got us to two strikes, we didn’t give in. We got a couple of two out hits. We did enough to win the game.”
After a shaky beginning to the night at best for Masterson (1-0), the Indians starter really settled down. He grinded out six innings of work with just over 100 pitches on the night, striking out five. All of his baserunners allowed – three hits, four walks, and a hit batter – came in the first three innings of the game, but afterwards, he shut down the next eleven Blue Jays in order.
“He went a lot with the sinker today,” Cabrera said after the Indians’ victory. “He threw the ball down for the double play.”
“Early on when Masty was kinda having trouble finding the strike zone,” Francona said, “he kept the ball down enough though so when they did make contact, it was on the ground.”
“I thought when he came in after the third, Mickey [Callaway] and he talked, I thought he went to his four-seamer more. And he got up on it and he had some good velocity behind it. He got into a nice little rhythm and he was good those last three innings.”
As what has become the customary ingredient in the recipe for success for the Indians, the ball was handed to the Bullpen Mafia with a lead. It was a lead that they would not surrender.
Joe Smith worked a perfect seventh inning, striking out a batter. Not to be outdone, setup man Vinnie Pestano replicated the effort thanks to a fantastic sliding catch by Stubbs in right. Closer Chris Perez gave up a two-out double to last year’s Opening Day hero, Arencibia, but struck out Colby Rasmus swinging on three pitches to earn his first save of the season and his 100th career save as a Cleveland Indian.
Cabrera led the way for the Indians with a pair of RBI. Bourn paced the top of the order with two base hits after a post-game scoring change.
With the win, the Indians (1-0) end a four-year Opening Day drought and enter a three-way tie with the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers atop the American League Central. The loss puts the Blue Jays (0-1) a game behind the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.
Ubaldo Jimenez will start game two of the season opening series. After an unpleasant and disappointing 9-17 season a year ago, Jimenez and his new delivery will look to return the pitcher to his previous, more successful, form.
Brandon Morrow will take the mound for the Blue Jays Tuesday. He was the best of the returning Toronto starting pitchers from a season ago, when he led their pitching staff with a 10-7 record and a 2.96 ERA despite missing two and a half months of action along the way.
First pitch for Wednesday’s game is scheduled for 7:07 pm ET at the Rogers Centre. Follow the game on Fox Sports SportsTimeOhio and the Cleveland Indians radio network.
Photo: Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images