CLEVELAND -- The fourth walk-off win in the history of Progressive Field home openers came courtesy of Michael Brantley, a player who has not appeared in such a game since 2015.
Playing at Progressive Field for the first time since May 8, 2016, Brantley laced an opposite field double off Tommy Kahnle in the 10th inning to score Francisco Lindor and give the Tribe a 2-1 extra-inning victory over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.
“It was great,” said Brantley. “It was great to be back, to be a part of this team. It was a team win all the way around. We pitched well, we played defense well. We were able to score with just one more than they did tonight.”
Carlos Carrasco spearheaded the pitching staff on a day in which the unit surrendered one run on six hits in 10 innings.
“That was unbelievable,” Carrasco said of Brantley’s game-winning hit. “It’s great. Everyone played hard. To see Michael Brantley coming back – you know he had (a) tough year last year – I’m really happy for him.”
Shields matches Carrasco
A pair of solo home runs off the bats of Lindor in the first and Todd Frazier in the fifth marked the only source of offense in the first nine innings of play.
Carrasco and James Shields effectively mixed their primary off-speed pitches – slider and knuckle-curve – to keep the opposition off-balanced all day long. The two clubs combined for six hits and three walks when each starter was on the hill in the low-scoring battle.
“I think we followed our plan, what we had before the game,” said Carrasco. “I know I had a tough spring training. You know what, when you come in here and start playing real games, it’s way different.”
With his near-perfect command, Carrasco did not issue a walk and finished with a final line of 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R/ER, 0 BB, 7 K (95 pitches, 61 strikes, 64.2%). The 30-year-old right-hander left the ball up in the zone in the first frame (two flyouts), but settled in and lived at the bottom third of the strike zone for his remaining six innings of work (eight groundouts).
“Really good,” manager Terry Francona said of his number two starter. “You can tell he’s starting to get confident now.”
Encarnacion strands six men on base
It was a game of missed opportunities for the newly acquired Edwin Encarnacion as he drew a bases-loaded situation with one out in the sixth and eighth innings. Both plate appearances yielded an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
“As frustrated as you get or as cold as you get, good hitters get that hot,” said Francona about Encarnacion’s early struggles. “He’s too good. Right now he’s a little stuck in between, but he’ll be fine.”
For the ballgame, the Indians batted 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 15 men on base.
Miller walks tight rope in the eighth; Allen sets the stage in the ninth
It was unconventional, but Andrew Miller kept the White Sox offense at bay to keep the score tied at 1-1. Geovany Soto (single) and pinch-hitter Matt Davidson (double) reached base to put runners at second and third with one out for the top of Rick Renteria’s batting order.
Shortly thereafter, Yandy Diaz made a game-saving catch to his glove side to retire Tyler Saladino before Miller punched out Tim Anderson on a sweeping slider. All four Chicago runners left on base were in scoring position.
“That was a great play,” Francona said. “[Mike Sarbaugh] deserves an assist. About two pitches before that, he turned to me and goes, ‘You okay if I back [Diaz] up a couple three steps?’ If [Sarbaugh] doesn’t back him up, [Diaz] doesn’t have a chance to make that great play.”
Unlike Miller, Cody Allen breezed his way past the heart of Renteria’s order with a trio of strikeouts vs. Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu and Frazier.
For the season, Allen now has a 9:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 3.2 shutout innings.
Boone Logan and Bryan Shaw teamed for a scoreless 10th frame to keep the hopes alive for 35,002 fans in what shaped out to be a classic finish to commence the 2017 campaign.
More on Brantley
Brantley now has five walk-off plate appearances in his career – May 10, 2011 vs. Tampa Bay (bases-loaded walk), May 19, 2014 vs. Detroit (solo home run), August 3, 2014 vs. Texas (solo home run) and August 11, 2015 vs. the New York Yankees (RBI single).
“I’m just excited,” said Brantley. “You don’t really feel your body, you’re just jumping around – I guess waiting to get wet. You know it’s coming.”
Travis Fryman was the last Cleveland player to notch a walk-off base knock in the home opener with a three-run blast in the 10th against Kansas City on April 12, 1999.
“We got to win, that’s all that matters,” Brantley said. “A lot of hard work given this off-season. A lot of time away from my kids and my family. They’re my support. They kept me going and motivated. I thank my family so much for always being there for me.”
Central Division update
Even though they were outhit 5-4, the Tigers (5-2) beat the Twins (5-2) by a score of 2-1 to tighten the early-season battle for first place.
The Royals took the day off and return to action on Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium.
Game 2 between the Indians and White Sox begins at 6:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday from Progressive Field.
Danny Salazar will make his 10th career start vs. the White Sox in the evening affair. He holds a 5-2 record with a 3.74 ERA in 43.1 innings against the divisional foe.
Derek Holland will also face the Tribe for the 10th time in his career after previously posting a 5-1 record with a 2.60 ERA in 55.1 innings vs. the defending AL champions.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.