Home runs are up dramatically across baseball, so it only makes sense that the Cleveland Indians would join the fun at some point. It also made sense that, eventually, they might win a baseball game after dropping their opener on Thursday. They did both of those things in a big way today.
Yonder Alonso gave the Indians their first lead of 2018 with his first home run as a member of the Tribe — a first-inning grand slam off a struggling James Paxton.
Paxton, a gigantic lefty that Seattle Mariners fans would like you to know is from Canada, had a lot of trouble in the first inning. Alonso’s home run was the end result of the issues, but it certainly wasn’t the start. He managed to force Francisco Lindor to line out (on a ball hit 85.8 miles per hour, but you know, whatever) before Jason Kipnis doubled and Edwin Encarnacion and Rajai Davis walked. Brandon Guyer, who apparently wasn’t paying attention the rest of the inning, came up and swung at the first pitch he saw for an out to end the inning after Alonso killed the rally with his salami.
Jose Ramirez almost gave the Indians another dinger on the day, but his home run that never was landed in the soft glove of Ichiro Suzuki instead of outside the left field wall where it wanted to be. Confirmed timelord Ichiro is 44 years old and change, and somehow he’s still able to leap tall walls in a single bound.
It’s even better (or worse) in video form:
Ichiro is back to robbing homers in Seattle.— MLB (@MLB) March 31, 2018
This. Is. So. Cool. pic.twitter.com/LIdmiqVetW
Regardless, the Indians offense was able to work a pitcher for a lot of wasted pitches, something they didn’t do at all on Thursday, and better yet they were able to capitalize on the hard work. So there you have it, in two games we already know every way the Indians is going to work this season: They’ll either pitter out into nothing, or blow up right away. Buckle up.
Yan Gomes provided the other two runs on the Indians scoreboard with a fourth-inning shot that scored Alonso, who was on base for the second time of the game with a walk. Paxton was able to get settled in to a degree after the first inning, and the offense looked dead — besides Gomes’ blast — against the M’s bullpen.
On the mound, Carlos Carrasco had an issue with fly balls, including two home runs. He didn’t have his best stuff by any means (only four strikeouts), but he didn’t issue a free base, either. It just so happened that he couldn’t keep the ball on anything resembling a ground-like surface when it mattered. What he did do, was adjust.
Matt Underwood and Rick Manning mentioned during the game that Carrasco knew he had issues going multiple times through the lineup in spring training, particularly because he wasn’t making adjustments. When the third inning came around, those issues came roaring back. Carrasco was throwing a lot of first-pitch fastballs, and he wasn’t mixing up his secondary stuff well after that. Mariners batters pounced, swinging at first-pitch fastballs for nearly the entire inning. He managed to survive the rough inning and switched it up a bit after that, and a result, his only major mistake past the third frame was Cruz’s home run. That home run, by the way, inadvertently led to a Cruz injury when he twisted his ankle somehow. That’s literally all the information I have on the injury, but it happened. I promise.
Carrasco’s four strikeouts were disappointing, but they were enough to help him cross the 900 mark for his career. He’s just the 13th pitcher in Indians history to reach the milestone, and he’s 21 strikeouts away from passing Addie Joss for 12th on the all-time Tribe list.
Lest you forgot that Corey Kluber pitched a complete dang and still lost in the first game of the season, we saw our first glimpse of the Bryan Shaw-less bullpen today. It worked.
I don’t know how often Terry Francona intends to use Zach McAllister as the fireman in a one-run game, and more importantly I’m not sure how often it would work, but he did it today to great effect. He even displayed an unusually effective curveball by Zach McAllister standards. A little doozy that hung precariously over the heart of the plate was enough to cause Mitch Haniger to fly out. I’m not going to question it, I’m just going to enjoy it.
If you come away from these first two games with anything, especially today’s win, it should be that Ichiro Suziki is awesome. Even as a fan of a team that he’s never played for, of a team in a city that he dislikes so much he’d rather punch himself in the face than visit it, the guy plays the hell out of baseball and he’s still doing it at 44 years old. That’s pretty awesome. So is winning against him.