Eighty-one degree weather with 5-mph winds blowing out to center field proved to be favorable hitting conditions for both the Indians and Rangers on Monday evening.
Texas belted three of the game’s five home runs to pull ahead early, but the Tribe was able to respond with two homers of their own to come back and win 8-5 at Globe Life Ballpark in Arlington. The Indians have now won five of their nine Opening Day matchups against the Rangers in the Lone Star State.
From Jose Ramirez’s first long shot of the season to Edwin Encarnacion’s game-saving blast to Abraham Almonte’s go-ahead RBI single, there was a bit of everything in what shaped out to be a slugfest for a pair of 2016 divisional champions.
Seven unanswered runs
Facing a 5-1 deficit, Cleveland took advantage of Yu Darvish’s shaky command and gradually crept their way back into the contest before exploding for five runs in the final three frames.
One inning after Francisco Lindor broke the scoring barrier with a run-scoring double play in the third, Ramirez turned on a 94-mph fastball to plate Encarnacion and cut the opposing lead to 5-3.
"We kept fighting," said manager Terry Francona. "We got to a point in the game where when guys got hits they were meaningful as opposed to just feel good-hits."
The Tribe continued to chip away on a wild pitch that brought home Yandy Diaz in the seventh and a game-tying bomb off the bat of Encarnacion in the eighth. Diaz had reached on a double to right field, his first major league hit. Darvish surrendered four runs on four hits and five walks before putting the game in the hands of Matt Bush and Sam Dyson.
Neither relief pitcher could settle the storm produced by the Indians’ booming bats.
In the ninth, the road nine tallied three runs on Almonte’s RBI single, Carlos Santana’s RBI double and Michael Brantley’s RBI single, his first hit since May 8, 2016. Leading up to the three-run outburst was a leadoff base knock courtesy of Tyler Naquin and a well-placed groundout from Diaz to move Naquin into scoring position with the game on the line.
"You could feel there was a little more energy in the dugout," Francona said of the come-from-behind win. "That's a hard game to win."
Kluber starts slow, finishes strong
Two segments of Corey Kluber’s third consecutive Game 1 outing were in stark contrast of each other.
Prior to Rougned Odor’s second home run of the contest, Kluber allowed five runs on six hits and two walks in 2.1 innings of work to put the Indians in an early 5-1 rut. His fastball and slider were poorly located in the upper third of the strike zone and yielded a trio of home runs from Carlos Gomez and Odor.
"His line's not going to look great," said Francona. "I think he deserves a lot of credit for not giving up more."
From that point on, Kluber returned to form and allowed one baserunner via walk to exit on a positive note.
"(I) just made an adjustment," Kluber said. "At that point in time it's just trying to go out there and keep the team in the game. With our lineup, if you can keep the team in the game, you gotta like your chances. Once that third inning got out of hand, I just kind of tried to take that approach, tried to keep them in it, and give them a chance to come back which obviously they did a great job of."
Francona employed the various bullpen weapons he had at his disposal as soon as Kluber hit the showers.
Dan Otero and Boone Logan combined for a scoreless seventh, each facing two batters in either righty-righty or lefty-lefty scenarios. With the high leverage situations still waiting for the later innings, Francona was able to show the value of having a second southpaw in the pen while keeping Andrew Miller in his back pocket.
Similar to his 2016 formula, the Tribe skipper used Miller and Cody Allen in the final two innings to secure the three-run victory.
Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday at 8:05 PM ET from Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Despite suffering from right elbow swelling earlier this spring, Carlos Carrasco will start and throw four to five innings vs. Martin Perez and the Rangers.