We all have our Opening Day traditions1 whether it is going to downtown Cleveland early and enjoying the buzz of more people caring about baseball or simply taking the day off work to tune into the game in a more private setting. Unfortunately, a day later than planned, the Cleveland Indians lost to the Boston Red Sox, 6-2, in what was their delayed Opening Day game.
And worse, the weather destroyed some of those traditions. A bustling downtown on Monday gave way to a late cancellation of the game due to dropping temperatures and the threat of precipitation. The Indians eventually made good with the fans by offering two tickets to make up for the one game lost (albeit a reaction to the outcry), but many of the traditions people had planned to partake in could not be recovered. The announced paid attendance of 34,493 people did not match the amount of people who actually made it through the gates for the early afternoon Tuesday game—the visual representation was roughly one-third of that. It is an unfortunate outcome. Unfortunate for the fans who lost their traditions. And unfortunate for a baseball team desperately needing to reconnect with its fan base.
Speaking of the Opening Day loss, WFNY’s Andrew Clayman had a sobering note about how Cleveland sports tend to take a step in the wrong direction to begin each season.
— Andrew Clayman (@ClaymanWFNY) April 5, 2016
So, the season might have been delayed by a day, the weather might feel more as if the Browns are playing out the stretch of another failed season, but the Indians have now officially started the 2016 regular season they (and we) hope will be the season we have been waiting on despite the result of the first game.
Price versus Kluber matchup does not live up to expectations
When a five time all-star, two time AL Cy Young runner-up, and one time AL Cy Young winner (2012) who happened to be the offseason’s biggest free agent signing matches up against the 2014 AL Cy Young winner, the expected outcome is a pitcher’s duel where each pitcher continually looks to top the other throughout. However, David Price2 versus Corey Kluber did not meet those expectations.
Early on, there seemed to be some semblance of a pitcher’s duel. Kluber navigated some hard hit balls including a two-run home run by Mookie Betts in the third inning to limit the Red Sox to two runs through the first five innings. Kluber was not locating his pitches as Indians fans are accustomed to seeing from him, but he was managing the game as best he could. However, as seen in the chart below, his fastball velocity dipped from 95 mph early in the game to 92 mph in the sixth inning, and those Red Sox took advantage with three straight hard hits. Kluber then lost control allowing a run (on a wild pitch) and a walk (to Jackie Bradley Jr.) ending his day, but not until the Red Sox had four runs in just 5 1/3 innings pitched.
On the other side, David Price was in mid-season form early. He dominated the first time through the Indians lineup allowing only Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to take a leisurely stroll on back-to-back walks in the second inning (a tough way to walk, go ahead and try it with a friend). But, Price also had six strikeouts.
The second time through was a bit more successful for our Wahoo Warriors. Francisco Lindor broke up the no-hit bid in the fourth inning. Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes both came through with hits. The Gomes hit glancing off the glove of Dustin Pedroia before making it into center field to drive in Lindor. It took taking an extra base on both the Gomes hit and risking the short throw from left field, but Santana was able to score on a Marlon Byrd sacrifice fly to tie the score at two after four innings.
Unfortunately, Price would settle down again and breeze through the fifth and sixth innings only giving up another single to Lindor. The one good thing the Indians did was drive up his pitch count to chase him from the game after six, but he finished with a solid line of six innings pitched, two runs allowed, and ten strikeouts recorded to just two walks.
New guys for the Tribe
Amazingly, despite a seemingly quiet offseason, the Indians had six of eight starting Opening Day position players who were not on the roster for Opening Day in 2015. That number includes Lindor but still leaves five new faces for Tribe fans.
Mike Napoli: Napoli ingratiated himself to the public by not wearing long sleeves nor an undershirt and noted he could manage fine if the temperatures dropped a few more degrees. Then, Tom Hamilton noted his 11-pitch battle with David Price in the fourth inning was a key for the rest of the lineup despite ending in a strikeout. And, he said it before Carlos Santana started the Indians two-run rally. I agree with this stance. However, Napoli did become frustrated with the called balls and strikes during the day. Napoli had a point in that home plate was stretched an extra inch, but the calls were relatively consistent throughout the day (as seen below in the chart). And, Nap allowed himself to be fooled three times by these pitch calls. Sometimes, if the umpire is giving the pitcher the call, you have to swing the bat.
Juan Uribe: A Mets fan friend told me I would be both ecstatic to have Uribe on the team and wholly frustrated, but I did not expect both already on Opening Day. Uribe bad a fantastic play to save Jeff Manship from seeing those Scot Atchison comparisons begin to come true in the first game and more runs allowed by Kluber. A hard-hit ball by Betts saw Uribe be able to snare the ball, step on third, and complete the double play to end the sixth inning. But, in the seventh, Uribe gave the Red Sox the out right back when he threw the ball away on a Xander Bogaerts grounder. At the plate, he finished 1-for-4, but two of those outs were strikeouts.
Marlon Byrd: Similar to Uribe, there was good and bad for Byrd’s first foray in an Indians uniform. He did knock Santana in with a sacrifice fly in the fourth. He also made a nice catch in the fifth inning at the warning track though part of the need was a slow initial reaction to the batted ball. But, he also struck out twice on the day.
Rajai Davis: The Indians 2016 Opening Day lead-off hitter (for some reason) went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, which is not what the Indians need from the player who is set to get the most plate appearances on the team.
Collin Cowgill: It took seven pitches to strike Cowgill out twice. Naquin replaced him and struck out in three pitches. The ninth spot is still looking like an offensive black hole for the team.
Game of narratives
Hey, did you realize this is the last season for David “Big Papi” Ortiz, and that Indians current manager Terry Francona was his manager during the 2004 and 2007 World Series title years for him? Oh, the media has completely over-saturated that point and the Big Papi farewell tour is already nauseating?
I’m torn. On one hand, why are Indians fans supposed to care about one of the players who blocked the Tribe from the World Series in 2007? And, Ortiz also tested positive for PED usage in 2003 that was outed by the New York Times, but has curiously escaped the scrutiny some of his peers such as teammate (and ex-Indian) Manny Ramirez. On the other hand, Ortiz tied Eddie Murray for 26th on the all-time home run list during a storied career with three championships. He is a great player worthy of recognition. Regardless, Trevor Bauer did nothing to slow the roll on the Big Papi adulations by allowing him to hit his 504th career home run off him.
The better narrative inter-woven into the fabric of Opening Day was that of Travis Shaw, who is the son of former Indian Jeff Shaw. Travis Shaw played mostly first base for Boston last year, but Hanley Ramirez was there now. So, back to third base for Travis where he played at Kent State and in MiLB, so he went there this Spring Training and worked like mad in order to beat out the highly compensated Pablo “Panda” Sandoval. Shaw would go 2-for-5 on his first Opening Day start.
Jeff Shaw began his MLB career with the Cleveland Indians in 1990 though he was never given the opportunity to pitch in an Opening Day game for the Indians before becoming a solid reliever in the National League throughout a long career. And, Jeff was a teammate with current Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell during those early Indians days. Additionally, Jeff played for Cuyahoga Community College so as to enter the JuCo Draft in the hopes of being selected by the New York Yankees, which he auditioned for in Columbus (when the Clippers were a Yankee affiliate). Instead, the Indians made Jeff the first selection ahead of Moises Alou keeping the Ohio native in-state.
Fast-forward ahead to Travis Shaw’s college years. He went to college at Kent State, where Ryan Bores (current Texas Rangers prospect) also attended. And, where was Bores stop before Kent State? That’s right, he is a proud Cuyahoga Community College graduate linking Travis back to his dad once again. Sadly, Travis Shaw and Bores missed each other at Kent State by one year. Shaw was drafted after the 2011 season, while Bores arrived for Kent State’s 2012 College World Series run.