Three-run Ninth Gives Indians a Comeback Win in Opener; Indians 8, Rangers 5
Bob Toth | On 03, Apr 2017
The Cleveland Indians used seven unanswered runs to overcome an early four-run deficit and defeat the Texas Rangers, 8-5, from Globe Life Park in Arlington in the 2017 regular season opener on Monday night.
In a matchup of staff aces, Yu Darvish and Corey Kluber took to the bump and showed that there was still some spring rust to knock off. Kluber worked out of a jam in the first inning after walking Carlos Gomez to start the game. He was caught stealing before a groundout by Shin-Soo Choo and a Nomar Mazara two-out double was wasted on a strikeout by Mike Napoli.
The Rangers would avoid run production issues to put up their first run of the season with the first batter of the second inning. Rougned Odor worked the count full before sending a slider over the fence for a solo home run to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Cleveland would tie the game in the top of the third in bizarre fashion after a one-out walk from Abraham Almonte. Carlos Santana doubled to right to move Almonte to third before Francisco Lindor lifted a fly ball into shallow left. Jurickson Profar fielded the ball and threw hard to the plate with Almonte breaking for home. Santana, however, got himself into trouble and was nearly at third base by the time Almonte tagged. The Tribe right fielder beat the throw to the plate as it was cut off by third baseman Joey Gallo, who turned and threw to second to force Santana, who was unable to safely tag up in time. A lengthy discussion occurred between Texas skipper Jeff Banister and the umpiring crew, but the run stood.
The home club wasted little time changing the score as Gomez started the bottom half of the frame with a first pitch solo blast to left to make it a 2-1 game. After a flyout by Choo, Mazara singled and Napoli walked before Odor tagged Kluber again with a three-run shot to right to make it a 5-1 Rangers lead.
The Indians responded immediately in the fourth. Edwin Encarnacion looped a single to left and Jose Ramirez sent a high drive to right-center that cleared the wall for a two-run shot to cut the Rangers lead in half at 5-3.
Kluber locked in on the mound after the second home run by Odor, retiring eleven of the final 12 batters that he faced. Darvish, meanwhile, worked around trouble in the fifth after the first three men reached on an error and back-to-back walks before escaping with a big double play grounder and another ground ball to first.
Darvish had set down six straight before Yandy Diaz doubled to the wall in the right field corner in the top of the seventh. He would move to third on a wild pitch and came in to score on a wild pitch strikeout of Abraham Almonte, making it a 5-4 game. While Almonte would reach safely and stole second base before being stranded at third by reliever Matt Bush, the Tribe would get to him the following inning when, with one out, Encarnacion sent a no-doubter to left to tie the game at five.
After good work from the Indians bullpen, Rangers closer Sam Dyson entered for the ninth inning in the tie game and found himself quickly in trouble. Tyler Naquin singled to center for his first hit of the season and moved to second on a groundout to third by Diaz. Almonte played the hero with a single to center, scoring Naquin from second to give Cleveland its first lead of the season. Santana extended the lead by splitting the gap in right-center to knock in Almonte and after Lindor moved him to third with the second out, he scored on an RBI-single to right by Michael Brantley to make it an 8-5 game.
Cody Allen took the mound for the ninth and struck out three batters, around an extra base hit from Elvis Andrus, to earn his first save of the 2017 season. Andrew Miller, who worked a scoreless eighth inning with a pair of strikeouts, earned the win.
Darvish lasted one out into the seventh inning, but struggled with his command. He allowed just four hits, but issued five walks on the night. He was charged with four earned runs and struck out four before handing the ball over to the bullpen.
“I thought we had some real good at bats. You give Darvish a lead like that, we had a couple of chances, we had the bases loaded, he got the comebacker for the double play, but it didn’t end the game for us. It didn’t take the wind out of our sails, we kept fighting,” shared Indians manager Terry Francona during his post-game press conference. “We got to a point in the game where when guys got hits, they were meaningful as opposed to feel-good hits, because that’s a hard game to win.”
Kluber showed some of the good and some of the bad as the long ball got the best of him on the evening. Despite the early hole dug in the second and third innings via three home run balls, he would settle down to go six innings. He was charged with all five runs on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts on the night. He ended the outing strong despite still trailing three runs, retiring eleven of the final 12.
“His line is not going to look great,” said Francona. “He tried to sneak a fastball by Odor, probably not the best idea. But after he gave up the runs, he stayed out there…He deserves a lot of credit for not giving up more.”
Kluber was seen several times during the start paying attention to the fingers on his pitching hand.
“I think the humidity…kinda got some blisters going,” said Francona, “just because it was so humid and we haven’t been used to that for a while.”
DIAZ’S BIG DEBUT
Diaz was active in his Major League debut. After striking out in the third, he reached safely on error to start the fifth inning. His double in the seventh led to his first big league run scored and his groundout in the ninth was productive, moving the winning run into scoring position. Defensively, he made an impressive diving catch of a liner by Mazara in the fifth inning.
Diaz became the first Indians rookie to start a season opener for the club since catcher Andy Allanson performed the feat to begin the 1986 season. Diaz is just the second player in club history to make his debut in an opener at third base, joining Rube Lutzke in 1923.
OTHER TRIBE DEBUTS
Several other members of the Tribe made their first appearances in a Cleveland uniform in Monday night’s win.
Encarnacion started at first base and struck out in his first at bat before a fourth inning single. After not hitting a home run in Cactus League play until the final game of the spring schedule, he went yard in the eighth. He now has six home runs in his last eleven games against the Rangers.
The first of Santana’s two doubles on the night marked a milestone for the veteran first baseman and designated hitter. The gapper was the 200th double of his Major League career.
KIP KIP HOORAY
Jason Kipnis, sidelined on the 10-day disabled list with a bum shoulder, celebrated his 30th birthday not in the dugout with the club, but at the UNC-Gonzaga NCAA National Championship Game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Kipnis had remained behind at the team’s spring training facility in Goodyear as the regular season began to continue work rehabbing his right shoulder, an injury expected to sideline him for much of April.
The two clubs will get right back to work on Tuesday night as the Rangers host the Indians in the middle game of the three-game set. Left-hander Martin Perez (10-11, 4.39 ERA in 2016) will take the ball first while celebrating his 26th birthday. He is 0-1 in three career appearances against the Indians with a 12.46 ERA and a 2.42 WHIP. Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (11-8, 3.32) will counter for Cleveland. He is 1-3 with a 5.73 ERA against the Rangers in seven career outings (including five starts) and had a light workload during the spring while the team watched his right elbow closely.
First pitch from Globe Life Park in Arlington is scheduled for an 8:05 PM ET start.
Photo: AP Photo/LM Otero