Well, there was no snow but the Cleveland Indians 2008 home opener was almost as crazy as the 2007 version. Two gopher balls from C. C. Sabathia in a very un-Cy Young-like performance. A 7 inning outburst followed by 6 innings of silence. Some major gifts from the umpiring crew. The Bizzaro Bullpen being bailed out by Mr. Clutch... Casey Blake? And Joe Borowski being Iron Joe again. All in all a crazy game that ended in a Tribe 10-8 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Things started poorly for the Erie Warriors as After getting Nick Swisher to start the game, Sabathia walked Orlando Cabrera and then gave up a long, line drive HR to former Indian Jim Thome to put the Sox up 2-0. The Indians promptly went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 1st with Travis Hafner taking a called strike 3.
But the Indians woke up in the 2nd inning as Victor Maritnez, Jhonny Perlata and Ryan Garko started the second with consecutive singles. An RBI ground out by the As-Man, Asdrubal Cabrera, made the score 1-0 and brought Franklin Gutierrez to the plate. Despite being down in the count 0-2, Frankie stayed in the groove that he was in down in the Grapefruit League and launched a 3 run HR to put the Indians up 4-2. Grady Sizemore added a HR for the second straight Opening Day, Travis Hafner added an RBI double and Victor Martinez added an RBI single and when it was all said and done it was 7-2 Tribe after 2.
Last year, C. C. Sabathia would have hunkered down, slammed the door shut through 7 and then turned it over to the bullpen. Not so today. C. C. gave up another 2 run jack to Thome in the top of the 3rd, this one a towering blast that the wind just kept carrying out to CF. All of a sudden it was 7-4. He rebounded getting the Sox 1-2-3 in the 4th and 5th innings but the 6th inning was a different story. After getting the first man out in the 6th he walked 2 Sox back-to-back, gave up and RBI single to make it 7-5 Tribe and his day was done.
Jensen Lewis came on to fan the next two Sox hitters to end the threat without further damage. He came out to start the 7th but t was a totally different story for their bullpen in 2008. Jenny gave up singles to Swisher and O. Cabrera and was pulled in favor of Rafael Perez. Jason Michaels robbed Jim Thome of extra bases but that only prolonged the inevitable as perennial Tribe Killer Paul Konerko delivered a 2 run single off of Rafael Betancourt to tie it at 7.
After a single to load the bases and a strikeout of Alexis Ramirez things stared to get a little sketchy if you were a White Sox fan and wonderful if you were one of the Cleveland faithful. A. J. Pierzynski hit a bouncer up the middle that Jhonny Peralta got to and made a wide throw to first. Ryan Garko made a full out stretch, on his stomach, and caught the ball. The first base umpire ruled that Garko kept his toe on the bag until after he caught the ball but the replayed showed the call definitely could have gone the other way.
The Indians good fortunes continued in the 8th after in looked as if they may have blown the game for good. After consecutive hits by Joe Crede and Juan Uribe, Nick Swisher was intentionally walked. Orlando Cabrera hit a chopper to Peralta at short and he threw home wildly an pulled catcher Kelly Shoppach off the plate. Shoppach reached back to tag Joe Crede who was called out at home plate. Replays showed that Shoppach didn't come close to applying the tag. So the Indians caught break number 2 of the afternoon.
These things happen in 3s as Jim Thome hit a ground ball to Asdrubal Cabrera who threw to Peralta for the force out at second and the Indians were awarded a double play as the umpire ruled that Orlando Cabrera deliberately threw his arms into Jhonny Perlata even through he was within reach of touching the bag with his feet. Inning over, no runs scored, score still tied at 7.
The Indians came out with back-to-back singles by Shoppach and Peratla to start the top of the 8th. With Ryan Garko at the plate you knew Eric Wedge was not going to call for the bunt. Garko struck out and was followed by a Cabrera who could only manage a weak fly out. The White Sox appeared to pitch around Franklin Gutierrez, who walked to load the bases, to get to #9 hitter Casey Blake. Blake hit .163 with runners in scoring position and 2 outs in 2007. So it only made sense that he drilled a hanging slider from Octavio Dotel off the top of the left field wall for a 3 run double and a 10-7 lead.
Now for most teams this would be game, set and match. No so for the Tribe as Joe Borowski came out to close out the 9th. I call Joe "Iron Joe" for two reasons. One, despite having mediocre stuff he has nerves of steel and like a piece of iron, no matter how many times you hit him he endures. And two, you need an iron stomach to watch him pitch because it's always an adventure. This afternoon was no different... Ground out, home run, strike out, walk, foul out, ballgame, Indians win 10-8.
In the end the Indians won which is all that matters but what an odd, odd way to go about it. A 3-3 day from Gutierrez, an awful outing from C. C., no bullpen support and the situational hitting heroics of Casey Blake. Unbelievable. The Indians either have destiny on their side or its gonna be a long, wacky year. I have a feeling its gonna be a little bit of both.
It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.