With the way the Indians and Mets game began at Progressive Field on Saturday afternoon, a 7-5 Cleveland victory did not seem possible.
New York jumped out to an early lead on just the third pitch of the game, as Curtis Granderson hit a leadoff homer to right off of Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin, making his first start of the season. It was difficult to imagine at the time, but the Indians veteran righty would retire 15 of the next 18 batters after the solo shot.
“I’ve given up quite a few home runs in my career,” said Tomlin after the game, “so I knew at that point it was just bear down, and our guys have been swinging the bats pretty well, so keep it there and let them come back.”
Matt Harvey started for the Mets in what early on was an impressive pitching duel. He was very quickly looking to erase any concerns about his arm or his health as he mowed through the Indians lineup with ease through the first four innings. He struck out the side swinging in the first, equaling his season-high for strikeouts in a game on his first ten pitches of the afternoon. He needed just ten pitches to breeze through the second, seven to get through the third, and eight to finish the fourth.
Harvey’s brief flirtation with the history books on the anniversary of Bob Feller’s Opening Day no-hitter in Chicago in 1940 came to an end in the bottom of the fifth. Carlos Santana drew a one-out walk to end Harvey’s string of 13 batters retired in order to start the game. After Yan Gomes flied out to center and with Jose Ramirez at the plate, Santana caught the Mets napping and easily stole second base. The theft immediately came up big as a few pitches later, Ramirez doubled to deep center to score Santana and tie the game at one. Juan Uribe stepped into the box for the second time against his former teammate Harvey and, after two balls, drove a single to left to knock in Ramirez and give the Indians a surprising 2-1 lead.
Tomlin exited the game prior to the start of the sixth inning when he felt discomfort on the mound. Jeff Manship came into the game and gave up a leadoff single, but Ramirez got his first outfield assist of the season by gunning down David Wright trying to stretch the single into two bases.
Cleveland expanded their lead in the sixth after Rajai Davis led off the inning with a single to short. After he stole second, Jason Kipnis doubled him home with a shot to center. Francisco Lindor sacrificed him to third base and a single from Mike Napoli drove Kipnis in to give the Indians a 4-1 advantage. Napoli advanced to second on a wild pitch from Harvey before Santana drew a five-pitch walk and Gomes sent Napoli scampering home with the fifth run of the day and third of the inning. After an out and a walk by Uribe to load the bases, Harvey departed for reliever Rafael Montero, who struck out Tyler Naquin looking to end the threat.
The missed opportunity nearly proved costly for the Tribe, but not before the Indians added two more runs on an RBI-double from Lindor in the seventh that scored Kipnis with one out and an RBI-single from Napoli to drive in Lindor, both off of Montero.
Bryan Shaw relieved Zach McAllister in the eighth and suddenly the game got very uncomfortable for fans of the feather. Granderson led off with a double and Wright walked. Michael Conforto struck out swinging, but Yoenis Cespedes delivered with a three-run homer to left to make it a 7-4 game. After a pop out by Lucas Duda, Neil Walker hit his second homer in as many days, a solo shot to right, to make it a 7-5 game. Cody Allen relieved and got Asdrubal Cabrera to ground out to end the rally.
The Indians could not pad their lead in the ninth, leaving runners on the corners before Allen returned to the mound looking for a four-out save. He walked Kevin Plawecki, but got a pop up from Alejandro De Aza and a pair of fielder’s choices from Granderson and Wright to end the ball game while earning his third save of the season.
The Indians improved to 5-4 with the win and pull within two games of the leaders in the American League Central Division. The Mets fall to 4-6 on the year.
MORE ON TOMLIN
Tomlin (1-0, 1.80 ERA) came away with the win but left for precautionary reasons after experiencing cramps in his right hamstring during his warm up pitches prior to the start of the sixth inning. He allowed just one run on four hits, walked no one, and struck out six in the shortened start. He had not pitched this season after postponements and open days in the schedule.
“I don’t know if it was just the adrenaline of not pitching for that long,” said Tomlin after the game, “but my hamstring kept grabbing at me. I knew it wasn’t anything serious like a pull. It was just cramping up on me when I followed through. That last inning when I went out there, it grabbed at me and stayed there. It wouldn’t really release.”
“Tomlin, leadoff home run, and then holds it right where it’s supposed to be and gives us a chance,” said Indians manager Terry Francona in his postgame press conference. “He was cramping up from about the third inning on, so he did a great job.”
KNOCKING DOWN THE DARK KNIGHT
After pitching both brilliantly and effectively through the first four innings, the wheels fell off for Harvey (0-3, 5.71), who earned his third straight loss to open the season. After retiring 13 in a row to start the game, he would allow a total of five runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts and left after five and two-thirds innings.
“Early on, I was able to use pretty much every pitch,” shared Harvey. “After that, a lot of things fell apart. Nobody is more frustrated than I am now. There’s not much else to say.”
Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud was removed from the game after being hit by a McAllister pitch on the left elbow during the top of the seventh. New York announced after the game that x-rays were negative.
The Indians setup man has rotated between good outing and bad outing so far this season. He worked scoreless efforts on April 6 against Boston and April 14 in Tampa, allowing one hit and striking out three in the two innings combined.
In the other two outings, he has been shelled, working one and one-third innings while giving up nine runs on seven hits with two walks, one strikeout, and three costly home runs. On Saturday alone, he allowed four runs on three hits and a walk while striking out one in two-thirds of an inning. He is 0-1 on the year with a hold, a loss, and a blown save while sporting a 24.30 ERA.
OFF THE SCHNEID
Collin Cowgill entered the game as a pinch-runner for third baseman Uribe and would later collect his first hit of the season, a single, after going 0-for-8 in his first seven games with six strikeouts.
Nine of the ten Indians players to bat in the contest got at least one hit with the exception of Santana. He drew two walks and scored one of the Indians’ seven runs. With two singles and two RBI, Napoli extended his hitting streak to eight straight games.
The rubber match will feature Indians right-hander Corey Kluber (0-2, 4.85) and Mets left-hander Steven Matz (0-1, 37.80). It will be a busy day in downtown Cleveland, as the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers will also host the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photos: AP Photo/Tony Dejak