Oh how I have longed for this day…..
Your boy is back for year four of the Tribe recaps. It is a true labor of love for me. This year for me holds something special for all of us. I actually like the fact that the Indians started the 2013 season on the road in Toronto against one of the best teams in the AL. Let us see right away what Terry Francona’s bunch is made of.
Well it is only one game, but you have to love the way things started for the Wahoos. The new look lineup would have to face last year’s NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey. The knuckleballer would be no easy out. The Indians approach against Dickey was fantastic all night as they worked deep into counts and didn’t seem to chase bad pitches.
They got started in the second with a Michael Brantley leadoff single. He moved to second on a passed ball. New DH Mark Reynolds worked Dickey for a one out walk and the Tribe were in business. A second J.P. Arencibia passed ball – he had trouble with the knuckler most of the night – pushed Brantley and Reynolds into scoring position. Lonnie Chisenhall, who’s time is now at third base, drove Brantley in on a great at-bat with an RBI ground out. With two down, the Tribe needed a big hit. They would get it from another new face, right fielder Drew Stubbs. His single to left scored a hustling Reynolds to put the Tribe up 2-0 on the Blue Jays new ace.
On the other side was Justin Masterson. The big right-hander started this season in search of his 2011 form. Right from the start though, he looked like last year’s version. He threw five straight balls to open the game before getting Melky Cabrera to line into a double play. He then gave up a single to Jose Bautista and hit Edwin Encarnacion. Masterson however then recovered to K Adam Lind to end the threat. It was a sign of things to come for J Mast. He was all over the place early.
An inning later, he put two Jays on with a double and a walk before getting out of the jam. In the third, Toronto had a big chance to do damage. They loaded the bases with nobody out on a single and two more walks. But the one thing Masterson is known for is inducing the double play ball. He would get one when he needed it the most. Again it was Lind in the big spot. He laced a line towards Asdrubal at short who made a fantastic backhanded stop, flipped to Jason Kipnis at second to start a 6-4-3 double play. A run scored, but it was a gigantic play in this game. Masterson struck out Arencibia to end the third.
“I wasn’t counting my pitches after the first three innings, but I knew the boys in the pen might have to get ready a little earlier than I expected,” Masterson said.
From that point on, Masterson completely settled down.
“I think Mickey [pitching coach Mickey Callaway] talked to him about throwing more four-seamers,” Francona said. “That got him in the zone more, then he got his breaking pitch to boot.”
The double play ball was the start of Masterson retiring the final 11 batters he faced. In the third it seemed like he would be lucky to get through five. Instead, Justin went six innings. Yes, he walked four which is way too many, but he gave up just three hits and one run before turning things over to the three-headed monster that seemingly always does the job.
The Tribe offense gave Masterson and the pen more cushion in the fifth. New center fielder Michael Bourn singled for the first of his two hits on the night bringing up Cabrera. Not only did Cabbie come up with the biggest defensive play on the night, but he jacked a two-run blast to right field to put the Tribe up 4-1.
“It turned into the Asdrubal Cabrera show,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Big double play that he turned — could have been a game changer early in the game. And then, of course, the big home run.”
With that three-run lead and Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez ready to do their jobs, Tribe fans all over the country had to feel good about where they were. Smitty was first up, getting the bottom of the Jays order 1-2-3. Pestano retired Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, and Jose Bautista in order, striking out the dangerous Bautista emphatically. Up next was Perez who worked around a two out single to close the Blue Jays out for his first save of the year and the 100th as an Indian. Most importantly, the pen sealed the deal on Francona’s first win as Tribe manager.
“It’s great to get one for Tito,” said Perez, “but it’s great getting one for our team, too, and the city. There’s a lot better feeling after Opening Day this time than last year. He’s going to get a lot more wins here, but it’s good to get the first one out of the way.”
This was an all around team win all around. The Indians got solid starting pitching from Masterson, a patient approach against Dickey, superb defense from Cabrera, Stubbs, Kipnis and Swisher who all made great plays in the field, and almost perfect relief work from the Smith-Pestano-Perez trio. Stubbs sliding catch into the wall in right eighth was a ball Shin-Soo Choo just would not have gotten to.
Up next the Indians send Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound to keep the train moving. He will face hard-throwing Blue Jays righty Brendan Morrow.
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)