‘Mr. Enthusiasm’ leads way as Indians triumph
CLEVELAND — Happy Bropening Day, indeed.
For five innings, I was wondering if Mike Pelfrey was going to do what Randy Johnson couldn’t 20 years ago — pitch a no-hitter against the Indians in their home opener. Carlos Santana’s double to lead off the fifth squashed those hopes. Then in the sixth, they got to Pelfrey and took the lead.
The one who delivered the game-winning hit was Mr. Enthusiasm himself as Nick Swisher belted a two-run homer to right to give the Tribe a 3-2 lead. They would tack on four more to win 7-2.
Swisher was so excited about his home run that he didn’t let go of his bat until he was halfway up the first-base line.
"Most of the guys were saying if we stick around long enough we’re going to get this," Swisher said. "I’m proud of the way the guys fought. Maybe this will be the identity of the team. Regardless of the situation and obstacle we’re going to take this head on."
Pelfrey was dominant the first four innings. He threw only 36 pitches in that span and of the first 12 batters he faced, nine either had strikes or put the ball in play on the first pitch.
Of the final 10 batters he faced in 1 2/3 innings, only three had a strike or put the ball in play on the first pitch. After the home-run ball to Swisher, Pelfrey threw eight straight balls to walk the next two batters as his day was done.
While Yan Gomes’ home run to right-center to lead off the sixth got the Tribe on the board and started to daze Pelfrey, Swisher thought the bigger play was Nyjer Morgan bunting Lonnie Chisenhall over to second. That set the stage for the go-ahead homer.
SALAZAR BATTLES: For the third straight game, an Indians starter gave up a run in the first as the Twins took a 2-0 lead, but Danny Salazar didn’t allow a run the rest of the way. The right-hander went 5 2/3 innings and allowed seven hits, including a solo shot to Chris Colabello, while walking three and striking out four.
Salazar admitted there were some nerves at the beginning but settled down as it went along. With the bases loaded in the fifth though, Salazar got Colabello to line out and Trevor Plouffe to ground to second to get out of the inning.
"I didn’t have my best job but continued to fight," Salazar said. "(Getting out of the fifth) that was really big, I kept the team in the game there. We then got some runs in and the win for the team."
For a pitcher that was brought along slowly during spring training, the one thing that was encouraging about Salazar’s performance was that he threw 95 pitches and didn’t show any signs of fatigue as the game went along.
Fastball command has been a problem the past three games with Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and now Salazar. One wonders if it will change on Saturday with Carlos Carrasco taking the hill. Carrasco was erratic during spring training but was still able to get the final spot in the rotation.
WEATHERING IT: Temperatures were in the 60’s when the game was supposed to start, but the 2 hour, 13 minute rain delay caused it to drop nearly 20 degrees by the time the first pitch was thrown.
Michael Brantley said that it was really windy in left field and that it was hard at times to gage the ball.
Said Terry Francona: "People braved the weather. When you’re losing it’s cold but when you’re winning it is balmy. We had a great crowd. There were a lot of people who weathered it to the end."
UNSUNG HEROES: Besides having the key bunt in the sixth, Morgan was 2 for 4. Lonnie Chisenhall, who was the designated hitter, was 2 for 3 and had a double in the seventh.
HITTING NUMBER OF THE DAY: 3 for 16 — What Swisher was batting against Pelfrey before his home run.
PITCHING NUMBER OF THE DAY: 0.60 — The bullpen’s ERA through the first four games. They have allowed only two runs (one earned) in 15 innings.
STREAK IS STOPPED: Friday’s win was the first in a home opener since 2008. Had the Tribe lost, it would have tied for the longest losing streak in team history in home openers (1906-11).
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