One of the great things about Opening Day is that barring injury fans get to see the best pitchers from each respective team. It is arguable that the best pitching pairing of Opening Day was in Houston as Westbrookian worm-burner Dallas Keuchel took on the machine that is known as Corey Kluber.
Cleveland Indians fans know that Corey Kluber is the reigning American League Cy Young award recipient, led AL pitchers in WAR, was second in strike outs, and complete games among other merits. However, what might not be known to as many fans is that Dallas Keuchel made a gigantic Carrasco like jump last year to join Kluber among the AL pitching elite. Keuchel ended up finishing fifth in AL WAR for pitchers, had the most complete games, and won the Gold Glove award. Therefore, a low-scoring pitching matchup was to be expected, and whichever team was able to take advantage of their few opportuties would likely win.
The actual game went according to script. Dallas Keuchel and Corey Kluber took turns dominating the opposing lineup making it appear at times that the hitters skipped right over Spring Training and had not seen a MLB pitch since September in 2014. Keuchel cruised through seven innings with only 103 pitches by giving up a mere three hits and three walks. He only struck out four batters, but he complemented those strike outs by recording six of the other outs himself1. Corey Kluber was nearly as good as he only allowed three hits and two walks while striking out seven batters. But, as we will see below, the Astros took advantage of those few opportunities while the Indians did not, and the result was a frustrating Opening Day loss for the Indians.
Top of 3rd, RISP, 2 outs: Lonnie Chisenhall was the first Cleveland Indian to get on base in 2015. It was frustrating that it took until a third through the third inning for that to happen, but Jose Ramirez was able to meekly push him to second base to create a scoring opportunity. Michael Bourn, coming off a great Spring Training, came up to the plate aggressive and quickly put himself into an 0-2 count with some terrible swings before ending the inning by hitting a *surprise* ground ball to end the threat.
Top of 5th: After Brandon Moss walked to start the inning, Ryan Neil Raburn had a chance to at least move him over and give the Indians another chance to take the lead. The entire reason that Ryan Neil Raburn made the Indians 25 man roster is to hit against left handed pitchers. Ryan Neil Raburn is not a defensive replacement, Ryan Neil Raburn is not fast, and David Murphy will take his spot in the lineup against most right handed pitchers. However, Ryan Neil Raburn has not been a good hitter for quite some time, and it was quite predictable that Ryan Neil Raburn would hurt this team in a key spot, which he did by grounding into a double play effectively killing the Indians hopes for that inning.
And yes, I used Ryan Neil Raburn that many times because when my kids are being bad, I tend to use their full names. Ryan Neil Raburn needs to go to the bench for a timeout. Or, Chris Antonetti can replace him with Tyler Holt. Please.
Bottom of 6th, 2 outs, Jose Altuve on 1st: One of the few things that Corey Kluber does not do well is keeping runners close to the bag. He even glanced over at Altuve who was taking a Rickey Henderson sized lead at 1st base before concentrating on the mitt of Yan Gomes. The moment Corey started his motion towards the plate, Altuve was already halfway to second base and, despite a strong throw, easily made it safely. It was the first time that the Astros had gotten a runner to second base, but George Springer made sure it counted by slapping a hit to left field that scored Altuve. Michael Brantley ended up doing the Indians a favor by making an uncharacteristically weak throw that Kluber picked off and got an over-aggressive Springer caught in a rundown (I do not think that a strong throw would have gotten Altuve at the plate).
Top of 7th: The Indians looked to get right back into the game on a tiring Dallas Keuchel with Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes each rifling shots off their bat. It took a great stop by Luis Valbuena on Gomes hit to keep the runners on first and second, but there were no outs. The Indians absolutely have to score runs when there are multiple base runners without any outs especially in a game like this one. I would even accept a bunt to move the runners along since scoring one run was still so important. Instead, Brandon Moss struck out, Raburn was Ryan Neil Raburn, and Lonnie Chisenhall decided to have his one poor at bat when we needed him most. Sigh.
Bottom of 8th: I guess Terry Francona has his reasons, but it looked pretty obvious that Corey Kluber was tiring, and this game was the first of the year. However, his pitch count was reasonable, and I do not think that there will be many opportunities to question Tito not pulling a pitcher. In the end, Kluber simply did not have good placement and left runners on the corners with one out for Old Man Atchison. He did his job, but not until a sacrifice scored the insurance run.
Key Moment Scorecard:
Houston Astros: 5
Cleveland Indians: 0
Luis Valbuena: If, when he left the Indians, you thought that Luis Valbuena would end up becoming a league average hitter and defender who would be the third hitter in a MLB lineup, then please raise your hand. Okay, you can put your hand down liars. Luis had a solid game and potentially saved the Astros when he stopped Yan Gomes shot up the third base line. Haunt.
Tony Sipp: I always loved Tony Sipp and appreciated that he gave us some good moments in some otherwise terrible seasons even though his pitching fell off toward the end of his Tribe tenure. However, I truly wish that we could have been a bit more rude to him last night as our hitters could not manage anything against him (two strike outs and a first pitch line out). Haunt.
Michael Bourn: Terrible day for him at the plate as he looked like he was flailing and failed to get solid contact anytime he was able to get the ball in play.
Jason Kipnis: It is already a questionable decision to let him bat second, but it looks even more questionable when he has the day he had. He was the most aggressive swinger for the Tribe as it took only nine pitches to get him out four times.
Michael Brantley: Despite getting out on all four at bats, he had a solid approach and was one of the few to make loud contact. If he continues to hit line drives, then the hits will come.
Carlos Santana: On a day when the Indians hitters struggled, he was one of only two batters to get on base twice. Unfortunately, he never was up in a key situation.
Yan Gomes: It appeared that he was swinging for the fences, which is a big reason that he struck out twice. But, that approach is also what led to a hard shot that should have been a double if not for Luis Valbuena.
Brandon Moss: Sadly, the biggest offseason acquisition did not pay off right away. He was patient, he worked the counts, but only ended up with a walk for his efforts, while striking out his other two times up (one of which was perhaps the most important at bat of the game).
Ryan Neil Raburn: I do not want to talk about it.
Lonnie Chisenhall: He had a nice game. He made a decent stab in the field, did not make any egregious errors, and was one of the few Indians players who looked like a MLB hitter. Unfortunately, the one time that the Indians needed him the most, he failed to come through.
Jose Ramirez: Made a great play in the field look routine in the first inning on Jose Altuve. The worry about him is that he will not hit as well as he did last year, but the Indians need him to keep up the defense.
Corey Kluber: Not his strongest performance as his breaking ball did not have the normal drop on it that we have become accustomed to seeing. And, he definitely tired late as he lost his ability to locate pitches in the seventh inning. However, it was just the first game and I am complaining about Corey Kluber merely being very good instead of dominant.
Scott ‘Old Man’ Atchison Hard to complain about him coming in and only giving up one run (charged to Kluber) when he was left with men on the corners and only 1 out. He did his job.