Sometimes squandering a bunch of opportunities comes back to bite you and sometimes it doesn't. On Opening Night for the Indians, it didn't.
The Tribe put eight runners on base in the first 6 innings against Oakland starter Sonny Gray, five of them when there was nobody out, the other three when there was only one out, but they couldn't push any of them across the plate. Most disappointing were the 4th (when a Carlos Santana walk and Michael Brantley double put runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out) and 6th (when another Brantley double and a single by Ryan Raburn) put runners on 1st and 3rd with one out). A strikeout and two weak ground balls ended the first threat, a play at the plate on a grounder and a strikeout ended the second.
The Indians struck out 11 times in the first 8 innings (with Raburn, Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, David Murphy, and Yan Gomes each responsible for a pair of them), which explains a lot of their inability to take advantage of their numerous scoring chances. Despite all of that though, they entered the bottom of the 8th still tied, because Justin Masterson was on his game, throwing 7 shutout innings while allowing just 3 hits and 1 walk. Only in the 6th inning was he in any trouble, but after runners reached 2nd and 3rd with one out, Masterson fielded a comebacker and then got a lazy fly ball to escape the inning. He struck out the last two hitters he faced, and with him at only 92 pitches, I was a little surprised he didn't come back out for the 8th (though pitchers rarely work more than 7 innings in their first start of the season).
Marc Rzepcyznski came on to begin the 8th and recorded one out while also allowing a single. Cody Allen entered next and threw a wild pitch and then walked the first hitter he faced (LGFT Coco Crisp). At that point Josh Donaldson hit what appeared to be a 3-run homer, but it hit off the top of the wall instead. Awful base running by Daric Barton combined with Nyjer Morgan playing the ball perfectly off the wall meant the runners each only advanced one base, loading them up. A strikeout and ground ball later, the Indians were headed to the 9th with things still knotted up.
Asdrubal Cabrera started things off with a walk, David Murphy followed with a single, an the bases were loaded when Gomes was struck by a pitch just above the elbow (it looked like it hurt). A sacrifice fly from Morgan finally put a run on the board, and a single by Swisher added another one for insurance purposes. All of that came against new A's closer Jim Johnson, who am sure made himself a lot of friends in Oakland tonight.
Speaking of new closers, John Axford made his proper Indians debut to try and finish things off. In classic Indians-closer fashion, he issued two walks, making us sweat things out, but Punto continued his fine night by striking out to end the game.
The player of the game has to be Masterson, who looked great. I suppose now is not the time to complain about the Indians declining to extend him, but he sure looked like a pitcher worth what he's asking for tonight.
Incidentally, if you go back to September, this is the Tribe's 11th regular-season win in a row, their longest streak since 1982, when they won 11 straight from late May to early June. This also makes two Opening Day wins in a row, a modest streak, but enjoyable none the less. For Oakland on the other hand, this is the 10th consecutive Opening Day loss, which is an MLB record. Better luck nice time, fellas (unless you're playing the Indians again).
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