Indians fans have waited since November 2nd of last year to cheer on their team at Progressive Field and the long wait for the return of baseball in Cleveland was worth it as Michael Brantley delivered an opposite field double down the left field line to score Francisco Lindor all the way from first base with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning as the Tribe walked off with a 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.
On a day full of all of the pomp and circumstance deserving of a home opener, the Indians fought through a tough day at the plate with quality work from the pitching staff and the big clutch hit from Brantley to save the day. Prior to the game, a banner commemorating the club’s 2016 American League championship was unfurled in the upper deck in right field and players received their championship rings on the field before earning win one of many at their downtown home, despite going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position while stranding eight men on base.
The Cleveland loyal did not have to wait long for something to cheer about as the Indians struck first in the first to give the hometown club an early lead after an easy top half from starter Carlos Carrasco. With one out in the home half, Lindor sent James Shields‘ 2-1 offering into the seats in right for his fourth home run of the season to put the Indians ahead, 1-0.
Both teams left runners in scoring position in the second inning before Carrasco and Shields settled into a pitchers’ duel. The game changed dramatically in the fifth, however, as Todd Frazier lined Carrasco’s 3-1 pitch onto the Home Run Porch in left to tie the game at one.
Shields had retired 12 in a row after Jose Ramirez’s leadoff walk in the second, but the Indians would knock him out of the game in the sixth. Abraham Almonte doubled to lead off the inning before a line out from Carlos Santana. Lindor walked and manager Rick Renteria went to his bullpen for left-hander Dan Jennings. Brantley worked a walk to load the bases and former Indians farmhand Zach Putnam entered to face Edwin Encarnacion. The big free agent slugger worked the count full, but grounded to Frazier at third, who went around the horn for an inning-ending rally-killing double play.
Carrasco struck out the final two batters he faced in the seventh before his offense would again threaten, but fail to score. Putnam gave up a leadoff double to left-center by Ramirez before striking out Yandy Diaz and Tyler Naquin. A wild pitch moved Ramirez up to third, but Yan Gomes grounded out to lead the go-ahead run off the scoreboard.
Andrew Miller took over for Carrasco in the eighth and ran into some trouble. With one down, catcher Geovany Soto singled to right and Renteria called upon pinch-hitter Matt Davidson for the hitless rookie Jacob May. Davidson hit a high drive to right that carried away from Almonte and landed for a double, but the slow moving Soto could not motor in to home. Tyler Saladino fouled off several pitches before ripping a shot to third, but Diaz made the defensive play of the game with a diving catch that prevented at least one, but potentially both runners, from scoring. Miller struck out Tim Anderson swinging to send the game to the bottom of the eighth.
Nate Jones entered and had problems locating for Chicago. He walked Almonte and Santana to start the inning and Lindor dropped down a sacrifice to put both runners in scoring position. But after an intentional walk to Brantley opened up the double play possibilities, Encarnacion had a case of déjà vu as he again grounded into a key double play to third.
Tribe closer Cody Allen struck out the side in order in the ninth and Sox closer David Robertson came on for Chicago to try to send the game to extras. Diaz singled with one out, but was erased on a fielder’s choice by Naquin, who reached on a throwing error by Anderson and moved to second. With the winning run two bags away, Gomes struck out swinging.
Boone Logan and Bryan Shaw combined to work a quiet tenth before Cleveland got to work with two-out magic. Almonte and Santana each went down swinging against the upper-90s heat from reliever Tommy Kahnle before Lindor worked a walk on a full count pitch. Brantley got ahead 3-1 before fouling off a pitch. On the deciding 3-2 pitch, he laced a shot down the left field line that glanced off of the side wall. Lindor, running full sprint with two outs, flew around the bases and got the go sign from third base coach Mike Sarbaugh and scored standing up with the winning run as the players poured out of the dugout to celebrate the end of a special day in Cleveland.
“My kids are in the stands, got to watch daddy play again,” shared Brantley in his postgame interview on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio before a Gatorade bath. “I spent a lot of time away from them this offseason rehabbing, but back on the field I am and I got to do it in front of a sold out home opener, I don’t know if it gets any better.”
Shaw’s two-thirds of an inning of scoreless relief earned him the win, while Kahnle took his first loss of 2017.
The Indians improved to 4-3 on the season and 1-0 at home at Progressive Field. The White Sox’s run of alternating losses and wins ended as they dropped their second straight, including their first game on the road this season.
INDIANS AVOID FOUR-GAME SKID
With the walk-off victory, the Indians continued a long stretch of keeping losing streaks small. After going all of last season without dropping more than three games in a row, they prevented a long losing streak with the win, ending their winless drought at three straight.
The Indians have not lost more than three in a row in nearly a year and a half. The club’s last streak of more than three straight losses came from July 23 to July 28 in 2015, when the Indians lost six straight, including the first four of the skid against the White Sox at Progressive Field.
NO WAITING ON THIS YEAR’S WALK-OFF
The Indians did not get their first walk-off victory at Progressive Field last season until June 1. In that game, Gomes broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the eleventh with a game-winning single through the left side. It was the first of eleven walk-offs on the season for the Tribe and they would not wait long for the next, as the very next day the Indians scored two in the bottom of the ninth off of Royals reliever Joakim Soria, capped by a game-winning sacrifice fly from Mike Napoli.
MORE WALK-OFF FUN
The Opening Day walk-off for the Indians was the fourth in the history of Progressive Field, dating back to its first season in 1994. Cleveland walked off victorious in extras that season and repeated the late game heroics in 1998 and again in 1999.
COOKIE A MONSTER
Carrasco pitched well around the solo shot from Frazier. He went seven innings, allowing just the one run on four hits on the afternoon with seven strikeouts registered over his 95 pitches. He retired eight straight batters between Frazier at bats, as their first encounter on the day led to a double by the White Sox’s big slugger.
PLENTY OF BIG GAME IN JAMES
Shields was able to find his groove in his start and had retired 15 of the first 17 batters that he faced heading into his final inning of work. After walking five batters and allowing just two hits in his first start of the season, he fixed the control problem and pitched like his old “Big Game James” moniker. He lasted five and one-third innings, giving up a run on two hits with two walks and six strikeouts, lowering his ERA on the year to 1.69 after two starts.
The talk since the end of spring training was that right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall would be back and on the roster by the time the team returned home to host the White Sox in the opener.
That did not happen, as Chisenhall remained on the 10-day disabled list after appearing in a third rehab game with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers on Monday night. After getting four hits in four at bats on Saturday, he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout on Monday with the club in Indianapolis against the Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He did not arrive at the stadium for Tuesday’s game until a little over an hour prior to first pitch.
With the Indians facing a left-hander on Wednesday, it appears both Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis will head to Double-A Akron to continue their rehab work.
“Lonnie is doing pretty well,” manager Terry Francona shared prior to Tuesday’s game. “It was just going to be really rushed today. I think before we activate him, we want to sit down with him and let the trainers examine him.”
The Indians and White Sox will pick up where they left off on Wednesday night in a 6:10 PM ET first pitch as they play game two of the three-game set.
Chicago will turn to left-hander Derek Holland (0-1, 3.00 ERA), the Ohio native who has had a penchant for defeating the Cleveland club throughout his career. He is 5-1 in his career against the Indians with a 2.60 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP and is even better at Progressive Field, where he is 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA. He took a tough loss in his first start of the season, allowing two runs over six innings with five strikeouts.
The Indians will call upon right-hander Danny Salazar (0-0, 6.35) in his second start of the young campaign. He allowed five runs (four earned) in five and two-thirds innings with nine strikeouts against the Texas Rangers in a no-decision to start his season. He has put up good numbers against the Sox in his career, posting a 5-2 record with a 3.74 ERA and has struck out Sox hitters at a rate of 13.3 per nine innings.
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