So far, so good. After the club’s most exciting offseason in recent memory, Tribe fans’ optimism was rewarded on Opening Day as the Cleveland Indians beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-1, in the first game of the 2013 season.
Things got off to a shaky start in the first inning as R.A. Dickey kept the Indians quiet and Justin Masterson worked himself into a jam, but the Tribe took the lead for good in the second. Michael Brantley led things off with a single, and a pair of passed balls and a Mark Reynolds walk put runners at second and third with one out. Lonnie Chisenhall brought Brantley home with an RBI groundout, and Drew Stubbs kicked off his Cleveland career with an RBI single to put the Indians up 2-0.
Toronto threatened again in the second but neither team scored again until the bottom of the third, when a Melky Cabrera single and walks to Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion loaded the bases with nobody out. A fantastic grab by Asdrubal Cabrera led to a double play that allowed a run to score but diffused the situation, and Masterson struck out J.P. Arencibia to escape the jam having allowed only one run.
Asdrubal Cabrera gave the Tribe some insurance runs with a towering two-run homer in the top of the fifth, and despite Cleveland setting up a runners-at-second-and-third, one-out situation in the top of the eighth that was it for the scoring. Masterson settled down and retired the final 11 batters he faced before handing the ball off to Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano. Chris Perez pitched a scoreless ninth to get the save and put one in the win column for the Indians right out of the gate.
The Good: Asdrubal Cabrera was the offensive MVP, hitting a two-run homer and drawing a walk in five plate appearances, while the much-maligned Drew Stubbs drove in a run in his first-ever Indians at-bat; both also made stellar plays in the field. Michael Brantley (1-for 2 with two walks and a run scored) and Carlos Santana (1-for-3 with a walk) also had good days at the plate.
On the pitching side, Justin Masterson showed good poise in getting out of tough situations in each of the first three innings and dispensed with Toronto hitters with seeming ease for the second half of his outing. Also, it was great to see the Smith-Pestano-Perez chain pitch the final three innings exactly how Tribe fans would envision it.
The Bad: Yes, Masterson got out of some jams—but that was after he got himself into them. He clearly did not have his once-formidable command throughout most of the first three innings; he walked, beaned, or gave up a hit to eight of the first 13 batters he faced. Hopefully his far breezier final three frames suggest that his early struggles were just shaking the rust off, but the Indians will need to see a lot better than that from of their ace in 2013.
The “Huh?”: A supermajority of Cleveland Indians analysts think Carlos Santana will be the Tribe’s best hitter in 2013. So do ZiPS, Oliver, RotoChamp, and the crowdsourced projections on FanGraphs. So how is it an efficient use of the team’s offensive talent for him to hit sixth?
Interesting Tidbit: The last time the Indians won an away game to start the season was 2007. Coincidence? I’ll leave that up to you.