Indians fall to Toronto in 16 innings
By Paul Hoynes
Cleveland Plain Dealer
There’s a saying in baseball, a game that ignores the clock, when the proceedings exceed the regulation nine innings, one player elbows another and says, “If we’re going to stick around this long, we might as well win.”
The Indians stuck around longer Thursday than any team has ever stuck around in a season opener and still managed to lose to Toronto, 7-4, in 16 innings at Progressive Field. What does that mean in terms playing and losing the longest season opener in MLB history?
“We made the record book, at least that’s something,” said Justin Masterson.
This was a game the Indians should have won easily because Masterson tamed a Toronto team that came out of spring training with the best record in the big leagues. Masterson allowed one run on two hits in eight innings. He struck out 10 and walked one, while throwing 99 pitches.
When he left, the Indians had a 4-1 lead. Manager Manny Acta handed the ball to closer Chris Perez to get the last three outs and he didn’t do it. Perez allowed three runs on three hits in 2/3 inning and had to be saved by Vinnie Pestano to keep the game tied.
Perez made only three appearances in spring training because of a strained left oblique muscle. He said the injury had nothing to do the blown save, but it was clear he was rushing and that his velocity was down.
“I feel terrible,” said Perez. “Everyone did their job but me. I wasn’t pumped up out there, but I was rushing. Especially when things got sticky. Usually I’m pretty good at slowing stuff down and working through hitters. I don’t know if it was Opening Day or the hometown crowd, but I was definitely rushing.”
Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson started the ninth with singles to put runners on the corners. Jose Bautista’s sacrifice fly made it 4-2 as Johnson advanced to second. Perez walked Adam Lind and gave up a two-run double to Edwin Encarnacion off the left-field wall to make it 4-4.
“He’s our closer and he’ll be back out there,” said Acta. “There are no excuses. He was ready to go. He faced seven hitters and threw first-pitch strikes to only two of them.”
Outside of Jack Hannahan, who hit a three-run homer in the second inning to give the Indians a 4-0 lead off Ricky Romero, the offense looked a lot like it did in spring training. Which is to say it looked inert.
For the last 14 innings, they didn’t score a run.
They missed two golden chances to win it. Travis Hafner hit a leadoff single in the ninth and went to second on an error by center fielder Cody Rasmus. Pinch-runner Jason Donald moved to third on Aaron Cunningham’s bunt. But Casey Kotchman bounced to first and Jason Kipnis grounded to second.
They loaded the bases with one out in the 12th but Asdrubal Cabrera hit into a double play.