You may have heard, it’s really cold right now. Whether you’re in Cleveland, Cleveland, or Cleveland, every city that matters is feeling the bitterness of baseball in early April. It was evident in the Cleveland Indians’ home opener, and it will likely last through most of their first homestand of the season.
Everyone felt the effects of the temperatures, too. More than one ball (and more than one hit by Yonder Alonso) died over Progressive Field instead of leaving the park. Pitchers complained of not being able to feel their fingertips, and the umpires had a hell of a time keeping track of strikes and balls. I don’t know if that last one has anything to do with the cold, but if you’ve ever tried to keep your eyes open and focused while a freezing wind is blowing in your eyes you might have some empathy for the umps tonight.
Most (we can probably just call it all) of tonight’s action took place in the first inning. Carlos Carrasco started slow while the Royals offense racked up a single, a double, and a groundout to score Jon Jay, who I had no idea was even on the Royals. Whit Merrifield, confirmed hobbit, scored a play later when Lucas Duda singled. And that’s about all the trouble Cookie had this afternoon. He retired 12 straight after the first inning and managed to work out of a rough patch in the sixth by striking out Lucas Duda and Chelsor Cuthbert with the bases loaded.
Danny Duffy had his own troubles, and completely forgot how to hit a strike zone, to the point that he walked Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis to lead off the game, allowed a Jose Ramirez single, then walked Edwin Encarnacion to load the bases. His manager, Ned Yost, came out for a pep talk before Michael Brantley singled in his first at-bat of the season to score two runs.
Maybe Yost’s talk at the mound worked, but it’s hard to point to that being the catalyst for the rest of Duffy’s game when he allowed such a solid hit one at-bat later. Either way, he stuck around the game for 5.2 innings of work, which is incredible considering he threw almost 40 pitches in the first inning alone. It speaks to just how damn cold and hard to hit it was all night long.
Just ask Yonder Alonso, who blistered a ball 105.9 miles per hour with a 27 degree launch angle — in layman’s term, a near-perfect barreled ball — that did nothing but die for a warning track out.
All told, the first-inning damage on both sides amounted to a 3-2 lead for the Indians and that’s how it ended. A few close calls, such as Andrew Miller toying with his prey before getting out of a jam, but eight of the nine innings were pretty uneventful.
I do want to give a shoutout to home plate umpire Roberto Ortiz for nailing a call and taking an unjust tongue lashing from Terry Francona. Both of those things take huge cojones.
In the first inning, Edwin Encarnacion called for time, but Ortiz didn’t give it to him. Maybe Duffy was too far into his windup already, maybe Ortiz just didn’t see Edwin call for it, but either way he didn’t do it in time, though Edwin backed out of the box as if he’d been granted time. Duffy went through with about 75 perfect of his pitch before bailing and awkwardly stepping off the mound, which under normal circumstances would be the most obvious balk in the world. However, since Edwin was never officially given time (and stepped out of the box), a balk could not be called.
I, and most of Twitter, instantly wondered how that couldn’t be a balk considering no time was called. Jason Lukehart came to the rescue with a rule clarification:
From MLB rule 6.02(b):— Jason Lukehart (@JasonLukehart) April 6, 2018
If after the pitcher starts his windup or comes to a “set position” with a runner on, he does not go through with his pitch because the batter has stepped out of the box, it shall not be called a balk. https://t.co/aQTRqh9eWJ
That is so much for the homeplate ump to process in the span of about a second. And he nailed the call by not calling a balk.
Good on you, ump.