Throughout the Cleveland Indians organization, the weather was playing havoc with the start of the Major League and minor league baseball seasons.
The weather problems in Cleveland were much more front and center as the Indians had to reschedule their Monday Opening Day festivities to Tuesday after wet and chilly weather invaded the northeast Ohio region. They managed to get the makeup game in, despite the record-breaking temperatures that day, as well as the contest on Wednesday night that featured some strong winds blowing out to straight away center field and persistent rain drops that fell all throughout the night.
The Tribe, after dropping the opener 6-2, won that second game in exciting fashion on a late homer from Mike Napoli that gave the Indians a 7-6 edge over the Red Sox.
Thursday’s game was postponed by the weather once again and the same was threatened as the club flew to Chicago for their first road game of the season. Instead, the Tribe and White Sox played through snow flakes and cold temperatures all game long and the Indians prevailed with their second win by a 7-1 final.
Down on the farm, the Indians’ minor league affiliates had to deal with the unpredictable weather and some wacky endings to some games.
The team in the toughest position has been the Columbus Clippers, who were set to open their 2016 season on Thursday night with a ceremony honoring their Governors’ Cup win in the International League playoffs last season. Instead, both Thursday’s and Friday’s games were postponed due to the wet and chilly conditions in the Columbus area, creating scheduling havoc for all involved. The club had already shifted the start times over the next three days to accommodate a doubleheader added to the schedule on Sunday to compensate for Thursday’s missed game.
The Clippers will try again to start their season and their series against the Indianapolis Indians on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. They will remain home for three against Louisville before hitting the road for a week.
The Akron RubberDucks evaded any weather problems affecting the Ohio area by instead starting their season on the road against the Bowie BaySox in Maryland.
Akron won their opener, 5-2, behind a strong start from Adam Plutko, who allowed one unearned run on two hits and two walks over five and two-thirds innings while striking out eight. Bryson Myles homered and both Bradley Zimmer and Eric Stamets had a pair of hits.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first on Friday, the RubberDucks rattled off five straight runs before two in the eighth by Bowie. Akron ripped it open with five in the ninth, courtesy of a grand slam from Nellie Rodriguez, on the way to a 10-4 win.
The RubberDucks will remain on the road in Bowie through Sunday afternoon’s game before heading to Altoona for three against the Curve. They will be the last of the full-season Indians affiliates to open their home schedule when they host Bowie on the 14th.
Even the Lynchburg Hillcats of Virginia were unable to avoid weather problems, as a 25-minute rain delay in the first inning of the season opener there brought rains and hail to Calvin Falwell Field at City Stadium in a wacky Opening Day.
In what was the longest of the openers on Thursday (one minute shy of five hours), Lynchburg and Winston-Salem threw punch for punch inning after inning until the Rush finally knocked out the Hillcats with an eight-run 13th inning.
The two teams traded solo runs in the first inning before Lynchburg took its first lead of the season in the bottom of the third, only to surrender it with two Winston-Salem runs in the top of the fourth. In the bottom of the seventh, the Hillcats fought back with two runs to take a one-run lead.
The Rush tied it again with a run in the eighth, matched in the bottom half by the Hillcats, who entered the ninth clinging to a one-run lead. But the Rush again evened the playing field with a well-manufactured run in the ninth, advancing a leadoff walk to second on a stolen base, third on a groundout to short, and across the plate with one out on a sacrifice fly.
Errors became the undoing in the 13th, as the leadoff man reached on a throwing error by Yu-Cheng Chang and after a walk, sacrifice bunt, and intentional walk, Jordan Milbrath’s throwing error allowed two runs to score before a three-run homer later in the frame. The eighth pitcher of the day relieved one batter later and was backup catcher Sicnarf Loopstok, who got two fly outs to end the inning. The Rush would win, 14-8.
Friday night, the Hillcats held on for a 5-4 win, powered by the second homer in as many games from outfielder Anthony Santander and backed by four and one-third innings of relief from long time Captains pitcher Anderson Polanco.
The Hillcats will continue their homestand against Winston-Salem through the weekend before starting a series against Potomac.
The Lake County Captains surprisingly opened their season on Thursday with their home opener, despite the decision by the nearby Indians to forgo their game. Through the rain, sleet, snow, but no hail reported, the Captains hosted the Fort Wayne TinCaps in an exciting and dramatic opener.
Temperatures were reportedly in the upper 30s and low 40s at game time, which may have been tough to believe for those in attendance at Classic Park. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth when the Captains put up four runs. The TinCaps chipped away with three in the next half inning and one more in the eighth inning to tie the game at 4-4.
Lake County reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the eighth with a three-run rally, but in the bottom of the ninth, Fort Wayne scored a run on an RBI-single and Ty France homered to right to again tie the score.
In the bottom of the tenth, Lake County’s Connor Marabell doubled to left-center with one out. First baseman Anthony Miller, already 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI on the night, sent a liner into right that skipped off of the wall and scored Marabell with the game-winner.
The TinCaps’ comebacks spoiled five scoreless innings from Thomas Pannone, who struck out seven and walked one while allowing four hits. His counterpart, Walker Lockett, was equally good, throwing five scoreless innings of his own, allowing two hits and striking out six.
The Captains won a more conventional 3-2 decision on Friday, but it took Kieran Lovegrove holding on for the save in the ninth after the TinCaps put the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the top of the inning.
The Captains hit the road after Friday night’s win for Fort Wayne, where they will continue play against the TinCaps in Indiana before heading to play West Michigan for three games.
Photo: TCP Photography