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Corey Kluber upholds tradition, is let down by offense on Opening Day

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A tradition like no other

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Even though the Indians won Corey Kluber’s Opening Day starts in 2017 and 2018, it wasn’t because of a rousing offensive performance. They scored a combined five runs in those two wins and only won because Kluber dominated the weak White Sox and Royals lineups.

Kluber did the same today, holding the Twins to just two runs, but the offense couldn’t even put up a little bit of their bargain.

Instead of two runs like they put up against Chris Sale on Opening Day 2017, the new-look Tribe lineup put up just two hits against potential breakout pitcher Jose Berrios. One, a fourth-inning double from Leonys Martin, and a single from Brad Miller in the eighth after after the Twins already scored a pair of runs and looked like they sealed game away.

Miller’s hit barely made it over the glove of the Twins infield, but it was hit 97.5 miles per hour, which is an encouraging sign for Miller, and likely one of the reasons the Indians took a flyer on him with time winding down in spring training. Unfortunately, he and everyone else forgot how to make contact.

Miller had a pair of strikeouts, just a fraction of the 13 whiffs by Indians batters today. Tyler Naquin was by far the worst offender, having struck out in each of his three at-bats and looking competent on not a single pitch. His first at-bat? Strikeout on three pitches. His second at-bat? Strikeout on three pitchers. He managed to take it to a full count in his final at-bat of the game, but swung on a pitch that couldn’t have been any further from the plate. Not to belabor the point too much, but Berrios was so deep in his head, and he dominated the rest of the lineup as well.

The offense looked very reminiscent of early-2018 when they were doing nothing but popping up or striking out. Today they struck out 13 times and flied out 10 times — 23 of their allotted 27 outs.

No one got hurt, though, and there are still 161 more games to go. And Francisco Lindor will be back eventually. We can all cling to those truths while we wait for Jose Ramirez and everyone else to warm up literally and figuratively.

On the mound, Kluber showed signs that he might be more on par with his performance last year than the pure strikeout machine of year’s past. He held Twins batters hitless through five innings, but relied mostly on weak hits over swings and misses, of which he only had 13. His four-seamer also averaged 92.2 miles per hour and peaked at 92.7, right in line with his approach on the mound last season. Still, it’s hard to argue with carrying a perfect game into the fifth inning and no-hitter into a sixth, especially against a lineup that’s supposed to shock people like the Twins.

In other important news, the Indians sported their new block lettering navy away jerseys today and they looked great, even if they were a little on the Red Sox-y side. I may never get over the giant guitar on the sleeve, though a few runs here and there will help numb the cringe.