Although there was no snow, 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 seven inning outburst followed by six innings of silence. Some major gifts from the umpiring crew. The Bizzarro Bullpen being bailed out by Mr. Clutch...Casey Blake? Joe Borowski being Iron Joe again.
All in all a crazy game that ended in a 10-8 Tribe victory over the Chicago White Sox.
The first inning started off with a ground out to second by Nick Swisher, but went downhill from there for the Indians. 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 first with Travis Hafner taking a called strike three.
But the Indians woke up in the second as Victor Maritnez, Jhonny Perlata, and Ryan Garko started the inning 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 three-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. When it was all said and done it was 7-2 Tribe after two.
Last year C. C. Sabathia would have hunkered down, slammed the door shut through seven, and then turned it over to the bullpen. Not so today.
C. C. gave up another two-run jack to Thome in the top of the third, 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 fourth and fifth innings, but the sixth inning was a different story. After getting the first man out he walked two Sox back-to-back and gave up an RBI single to make it 7-5 Tribe. 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 seventh but it 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 two-run single off of Rafael Betancourt to tie it at seven.
After a single to load the bases and a strikeout of Alexis Ramirez things stared to get a little sketchy for White Sox fans and wonderful for the Cleveland faithful. A. J. Pierzynski hit a bouncer up the middle that Jhonny Peralta got to, making 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 eighth after it looked as if they might 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, pulling 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. The Indians caught break number two of the afternoon.
These things must happen in threes, as Jim Thome hit a ground ball to Asdrubal Cabrera who threw to Peralta for the force out at second. The Indians were awarded a double play as the umpire ruled that Orlando Cabrera deliberately threw his arms into Perlata even though he was within reach of touching the bag with his feet. Inning over, no runs scored, still tied at seven.
The Indians came out with back-to-back singles by Shoppach and Peratla to start the top of the eighth. 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 No. 9 hitter Casey Blake. Blake hit .163 with runners in scoring position and two 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 three-run double and a 10-7 lead.
For most teams this would be game, set, and match.
Not so for the Tribe as Joe Borowski came out to close the ninth. 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 it's gonna be a long, wacky year. I have a feeling it's gonna be a little bit of both.
It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.