Indians outslugged by White Sox 15-10
CLEVELAND -- There has always been something special about Opening Day. It doesn’t matter what a team did last year or where they are expected to finish. Opening Day isn’t just a game—it’s an event. It’s a spectacle. In a sport where just one game means so little, it’s remarkable just how much importance is placed on Opening Day.
Look no further than Cleveland for proof of that. The Indians posted the seventh-worst record of the season at 69-93 in 2010. They will most likely be in more of a fight battling Kansas City to avoid last place than being anywhere near the top of the AL Central. Their biggest free agent acquisitions (Orlando Cabrera, Jack Hannahan, Austin Kearns) were relatively unwanted throughout the league.
Yet on Opening Day, fans packed Progressive Field with a sold-out crowd of 41,721. Considering Cleveland finished dead-last in the majors in attendance last season at just 17,435 per game, it was a testament to the power of baseball’s season opener.
“You have got a big crowd for Opening Day and you know how big of a day it is for the city,” 10-year veteran Travis Hafner said. It’s one of the best days of the year. The city is really excited and you get a great crowd. It’s like a holiday up here. It’s just really a special day.”
Unfortunately, the allure of Opening Day only goes so far. Starting pitcher Fausto Carmona was up to his old tricks, struggling in yet another game with the spotlight on him. Fans have clamored to see Carmona embrace the pressure as he did in the infamous 2007 ‘Bug Game,’ taking center stage and battling swarming insects in a three-hit complete game win against the Yankees in the playoffs. However, most often when feeling the pressure he has reverted back to the overthrowing closer of 2006, who recorded four losses and three blown saves in a span of seven days.
Carmona couldn’t keep his vaunted sinker down all game against the White Sox and was battered to the tune of 10 runs on 11 hits in just three innings of work. He admitted afterwards that his dreadful performance was due to overthrowing as he was just trying to do too much. Starting catcher Carlos Santana said that the sixth-year pitcher couldn’t locate either his sinker or his slider all game. As the trade deadline approaches and Carmona’s value is weighed, don’t forget to factor in his struggles in the limelight. It may not show up directly on the stat sheet, but it’s as important as any statistic there is.
“He just couldn’t get the ball down,” Indians Head Coach Manny Acta said. “I’m not going to blame it on Opening Day. This is my number one guy. I’m not going to see him as a weak link. He’s our number one guy he just didn’t have it today.”
Despite Carmona’s struggles and a ridiculous 14-0 deficit in just the fourth inning, a lot of positives surrounded Opening Day for the Tribe. The Indians did some damage on one of the better bullpens in baseball and made Chicago a bit nervous before the day’s end, ultimately losing 15-10. They even managed to force closer Matt Thornton into the bullpen to warm up, quite a feat for a team down two touchdowns.
“It would have been easy to give up down 14-0, but that tells you about this team,” Hannahan said. “You can never really count this team out. We came back and put some good at bats together. That’s what you have to do to win games.”
“We can’t promise a win every single day but I can promise we will have a bunch of guys that will go out there and never give up and will play hard,” Acta said. “They accomplished a lot of the things we wanted to do after we fell behind by that margin.”
Santana looked every bit the hitter he was in his rookie season before shattering his leg in a gruesome injury against the Red Sox, going 3 for 5 with two runs and three RBI, including a seventh-inning home run. While not yet back to full strength, Santana still looked like one of the most dangerous catchers at the plate in baseball.
“Right now when I’m playing in the field I’m playing at 100 percent,” Santana said. “I don’t know yet if [my leg] is 100 percent. My knee is okay, it’s just a little tight but I can play.”
Michael Brantley (2 of 5, 2 RBI) and Asdrubal Cabrera (3 of 5, 2 R) played well at the top of the lineup and Hannahan debuted with stellar defense along with a three-hit, three-run effort. There was even a Hafner sighting, as the 6-3, 240 pound designated hitter had a multi-hit performance.
This was all done without star centerfielder Grady Sizemore, who is still on his way back from knee surgery. He started yesterday for AA Akron in center field in Goodyear, Ariz. as he rehabs on his way back to Cleveland.
“They pounded the ball pretty well,” Chicago Head Coach Ozzie Guillen said. “They are fun to watch. They go out and fight. Whoever comes here—just be careful. Their bullpen is pretty good and they will hit. If you come in and think it will be easy, just be careful.”