Ranking the Jacobs/Progressive Field Openers

It’s a holiday in downtown Cleveland. The day we’ve been perpetually waiting for during that interminable winter that lasted about 37 years.

Weather permitting, as always, there will be baseball at Progressive Field this afternoon. And, with all sorts of new bells and whistles on the ballpark, it will perhaps be the most meaningful home opener since 1994.

But really, each home opener is meaningful. Sure, it’s just one game, and may not in any way forecast the season to come, but everything’s under a microscope in a way that it won’t be again until the playoffs (God willing).

So with Jacobs/Progressive Field unofficially celebrating its 21st birthday today, let’s buy it a beer and look back at its previous openers, listed here from worst to best:

21. 1996: Yankees 7, Indians 1

After a snowout the previous day, the Yanks spoiled the Tribe’s first game after the pennant-winning ’95 season with homers by Bernie Williams and rookie Derek Jeter.

20. 2009: Blue Jays 13, Indians 7

The Tribe rallied with three in the seventh to tie, then Rafael Perez was lit up in the eighth as the Blue Jays plated six to pull away.

19. 2013: Yankees 11, Indians 6

The tone was set five minutes in when former Indian Travis Hafner smashed a three-run blast off Ubaldo Jimenez. The Tribe bounced back to tie the game in the bottom of the first, then allowed the Yankees to score the next eight runs.

18. 2000: Rangers 7, Indians 2

Dave Burba was lit up for six runs in four innings and the Tribe offense managed only four hits in Charlie Manuel’s first home game as Indians skipper.

17. 2001: White Sox 7, Indians 4

In their first meeting since Chicago ended the Indians’ five-year reign as AL Central champs the year before, a three-run homer by Magglio Ordonez off Bartolo Colon in the sixth put the Sox in the clear.

16. 2003: White Sox 5, Indians 3 (10 innings)

For the fourth time in the first 10 home openers at Jacobs Field, the Indians went to extra innings, but for the first time, they lost. A Jon Valentin RBI single and a Frank Thomas sac fly handed a loss to Indians’ reliever Chad Paronto.

15. 2010: Rangers 4, Indians 2 (10 innings)

A 10th-inning homer by Nelson Cruz off Jamey Wright delivered a victory for the Rangers, as the Tribe wasted an eight-inning, two-run effort by Fausto Carmona.

14. 2011: White Sox 15, Indians 10

After falling behind 14-0 in the fourth inning, the Indians gradually chipped away and actually made a game of it. Carlos Santana went 3 for 5 with 3 RBI, but the stat line of the day was Fausto Carmona, who permitted 10 runs in just three innings.

13. 2005: White Sox 2, Indians 1

Freddy Garcia topped Kevin Millwood in a pitchers’ duel that saw the teams combine for just 10 hits. A seventh-inning RBI single by Chicago’s Scott Podsednik broke a 1-1 tie.

12. 2012: Blue Jays 7, Indians 4 (16 innings)

Justin Masterson was brilliant for eight innings, but Chris Perez imploded in the ninth and gave up three runs to send the game to extra innings. After six scoreless frames, Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia blasted a three-run homer to end the five-hour marathon.

11. 1995: Indians 5, Twins 1

Even with the season starting three weeks late following the strike, the Indians were in midseason form: RBI hits by Albert Belle and Eddie Murray, seven innings of one-run ball from Charles Nagy, and a slam-the-door ninth for Jose Mesa.

10. 2006: Indians 11, Twins 6

Casey Blake delivered the knockout blow with a grand slam in the fifth as Paul Byrd picked up his first win in a Cleveland uniform. The Tribe collected 17 hits, with Travis Hafner going 4 for 4.

9. 2014: Indians 7, Twins 2

Down 2-0, the Indians plated three in the sixth and four in the seventh – thanks in part to a homer and RBI double by Nick Swisher – as the Indians snapped a five-year home-opener losing streak.

8. 2002: Indians 9, Twins 5

Continuing what would be an amazing 11-1 start, the Indians cruised to victory behind a third-inning grand slam by Travis Fryman.

7. 2004: Indians 6, Twins 3

After losing three games on walk-off hits in the first week of the season, the Indians grabbed a lead thanks to a third-inning grand slam by Travis Hafner and hung on through another rocky ninth.

6. 1997: Indians 15, Angels 3

After a tumultuous spring training that saw Kenny Lofton traded away just days before the season began, all was right in the home opener as the Tribe put together a pair of six-run innings to bury the Angels. Marquis Grissom – acquired in the Lofton trade – went 3 for 3 and Manny Ramirez and Kevin Mitchell both blasted three-run homers.

5. 2007: Indians 7, Angels 6

Nobody will ever forget the Indians shuffling to Milwaukee’s Miller Park to play their home opener after snow (and Mike Hargrove) ruined the first attempt in Cleveland. The Tribe built a 7-3 lead in the fifth thanks to three RBI from Andy Marte, then the bullpen barely held off the Angels to send the Brew City crowd home impartial.

4. 2008: Indians 10, White Sox 8

Kicking off a season loaded with expectations, the Indians scored seven in the second but then permitted the White Sox to chip away and tie it in the seventh. A two-out, three-run double by Casey Blake in the eighth delivered a wild victory.

3. 1998: Indians 8, Angels 5 (10 innings)

After a 6-1 road trip to start the year, the Tribe blew a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning, but were rescued by a Jim Thome walk-off homer in the 10th.

2. 1999: Indians 5, Royals 2 (10 innings)

Just like the year before, the Indians walked off a winner with a 10th-inning three-run homer, this time by Travis Fryman. Tribe shortstop Enrique Wilson hit a two-run shot in the eighth to tie it.

1. 1994: Indians 4, Mariners 3 (11 innings)

Perhaps a bit of a letdown that the first is still the best, but this one may never be topped. On the brink of being no-hit by Randy Johnson, the Tribe rallied to send the game into extra innings, where Wayne Kirby brought home Eddie Murray with a two-out hit in the 11th.

Photo: TribeVibe.mlblogs.com

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