By Sean Tuttle
The day began with all the celebrator grandeur of Opening Day and Justin Masterson dominated for eight innings, but Chris Perez could not close the game and the Cleveland Indians allowed the Toronto Blue Jays to steal the opener, 7-4.
The Tribe’s bats would come alive in the bottom of the second. Carlos Santana started the inning off with a walk, Travis Hafner struckout swinging for the first out, Shelly Duncan doubled to left and advanced Santana to third. Kotchman with his first appearance as an Indian grounded out to first, but struck first on the scoreboard with Santana scoring. Jason Kipnis followed with a walk which set up Jack Hannahan who hit a three run home run to right field. Michael Brantley followed with a double of his own, giving the tribe three extra base hits in the inning.
Masterson would continue to deal striking two out in the third as the Blue Jays went down in order. The Blue Jays would get on the board in the top of the fourth with a solo shot to left field by Jose Bautista, but Masterson would continue to impress striking out two more to bring his total to seven strikeouts through four innings.
Masterson sat down the Blue Jays in order in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings adding one more strikeout in the seventh for his eighth punch-out. He would later add two more strikeouts giving him his second career double-digit strikeout game.
“Masterson was terrific. His slider was fantastic,” Acta said. Masterson went 8.0 innings allowed two hits, one earned run, one walk and 10 strikeouts, the one run coming off the Bautista home run in the fourth.
Perez would come in for a save opportunity in the top of the ninth, but would only last 2/3 of an inning after facing seven batters. Perez started off the inning by allowing back to back singles putting runners at the corners for Jose Bautista who hit a sacrifice fly to center making the score 4-2 Tribe. Adam Lind would follow with a walk, and Edwin Encarnacion doubled to deep left for a two run RBI to tie the game at four all. Perez would see two more batters and be pulled after walking Eric Thames. Vinnie Pestano would come in and close the inning with a ground out.
“He pitched behind in the count. No excuses. He is ready, we said he was ready, No excuses,” Acta said. “He is our closer and he will be out there again.”
The Indians threatened to end the game in the bottom of the ninth when Travis Hafner doubled to lead off the inning. Aaron Cunningham moved Hafner to third with a sacrifice bunt, but the Tribe could not bring Hafner home for the win.
The Tribe found themselves in a deadlock 4-4 game in extra innings, and would later get out of trouble in the 12th inning after loading the bases with two outs.
Things got a little interesting in the bottom of the 15th inning when the benches cleared after a high heater was thrown at the head of Shin-Shoo Choo. Both teams were warned earlier in the game after Choo was hit and Masterson retaliated throwing inside at the Blue Jays. No one was ejected, and play continued into the 16th inning marking the longest Opening Day game in Indians and MLB history. April 19th, 1960 at Cleveland Stadium in a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers was the previous record holder.
The scales tipped towards the Blue Jays in the top of the 16th inning when J.P. Arencibia hit a three run bomb to left field. All though the Indians got to bat in the bottom of the inning, they went down with little fight
“We’ll take a 100 chances like that again. We just couldn’t put the bats together,” Acta said. “We didn’t get it done like we had to.” The Indians went 1-9 with runners in scoring position tonight. The one being Hannahan’s three-run blast in the second.
Luis Perez is credited with the victory for the Blue Jays, while Jairo Asencio suffers his first defeat as an Indian. The Tribe is off tomorrow before they face the Blue Jays again on Saturday afternoon.
Photos: Jason Miller/Getty Images