Exhale, Tribe fans: this time there wasn't late-inning heartbreak.
This time, four runs were enough. Barely.
Last season in Atlanta, Derek Lowe went 7 innings in just three of his 34 starts, so in his first start with the Indians, he's already had a better start in 2012 than in all of 2011. Derek was pitching just like Jake Westbrook used to, retiring batter after batter via the ground ball out.
This spring, the Indians worked with Lowe to throw in a more downhill fashion, leveraging his 6'5" height to put more sink on the ball. Another change that was implemented was more fastballs, as Lowe threw a career-high percentage of sliders last year. At least today, those tweaks worked, and Lowe had little trouble navigating through the Toronto lineup. The only runs scored off him were unearned runs; Jack Hannahan dropped what should have been a double play in the fourth inning, leading to two runs.
The offense managed four runs yet again, with home runs, particularly Carlos Santana's home runs, providing the bulk of that total. Santana turned 26 today, and he celebrated his birthday in style, hitting a solo home run in the second, and a two-run shot in the fifth. Jack Hannahan's two-out single later in the second drove home the only other run of the day. The Indians continued to draw walks (6 more today), but they haven't yet truly capitalized on those additional opportunities.
Toronto starter Joel Carreño made his first MLB start today, and he struggled to get through the first couple innings, relying mostly on a slurvey slider. The Indians were patient at the plate, and pitches piled up, but the Indians never landed a knockout blow, and the Toronto right-hander was able to finish six innings.
So the game remained in doubt all the way to the last pitch of the game. Toronto got a run closer in the eighth after getting to Joe Smith with three straight singles; it took Vinnie Pestano to extricate the Indians from the top of the eighth with the lead intact. Pestano would normally have come into the game to start the inning, but it looked like Manny Acta was trying to get through today's contest without having to use Pestano. But after the inning went south, Acta chucked the strategy in favor of winning the game at hand.
Chris Perez, after looking awful on Opening Day, looked much sharper in yesterday's game, and had to be even better to close today's contest. For with one out and a runner at first base, Asdrubal Cabrera botched what would have been a game-ending double play, leaving Perez to get two more outs with runners on first and second and with the thinnest of margins. He struck out Yunel Escobar, but walked Kelly Johnson after a fantastic battle, which brought up Jose Bautista all-world hitter, with the bases loaded. But after falling behind 2-1, Perez got Bautista to pop up on the infield. The ball started out in front of third base, but thanks to the wind, Asdrubal Cabrera had to run behind the pitcher's mound to squeeze the final out of the game. Whatever reservations we had after Game 1 regarding Chris Perez were obliterated after his performances in Game 2 and 3.