CLEVELAND — The Indians emerged from their offensive hibernation to start the season during a cold — 37 degrees at first pitch — but sunny Monday afternoon in the home opener at Progressive Field.
Still, it took a while to rub the sleep out of their eyes.
Managing to score only once through seven innings, and in jeopardy of wasting another dominating effort from its top-shelf rotation, Cleveland scored four times in the eighth inning to rally past the Chicago White Sox 5-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 34,579 fans.
The Indians trailed 3-1 after a bullpen implosion from Adam Cimber, Oliver Perez and Jon Edwards, who allowed a go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth to pinch hitter Ryan Cordell in Cordell’s first plate appearance of the season.
But Cleveland responded by taking advantage of a rough day for three Chicago relievers — Jace Fry, Dylan Covey and Caleb Frare.
“That was the first thing I said when I was sitting there watching it with some of the clubhouse guys, ‘Man, this is Tribe baseball right here,’” said right-hander Mike Clevinger, who was deprived of the win despite tossing seven shutout innings and allowing only a hit. “If there’s anything, this reminds me of the 2016 team. It wasn’t all these flashy wins all the time. It was like grinding out till the eighth, ninth inning, losing the lead, coming back. That’s Tribe baseball, that’s how we’re gonna win. I like it.”
All of the runs in the eighth came with two outs — and plenty of help from the White Sox.
Left-handed hitter Jake Bauers doubled off the lefty Fry, and after Carlos Santana was walked intentionally to load the bases, White Sox second baseman Yolmer Sanchez was charged with an error when Hanley Ramirez’s liner deflected off his glove, allowing Leonys Martin to score.
Pinch hitter Max Moroff tied it on a base hit to left before Covey walked Roberto Perez to force in the go-ahead run. Frare entered and walked pinch hitter Greg Allen to provide the final count.
“I think that bodes well, because we’re gonna have to fight for everything we can get and today was an example,” manager Terry Francona said. “Bauers, off a tough lefty, hits a ball in the gap, and we were patient enough to have some things happen and we come away with a tough win. But I’d rather win than lose.
“I did think our guys did a better job (offensively), and they will continue to. When the weather warms up, it will be easier for everybody, pitchers included. In the meantime, you just have to kind of fight for everything you can get.”
Clevinger was ready for the fight from the get-go, striking out the side in the opening inning and fanning six of the first 11 batters he faced on the way to a career-high 12 strikeouts.
He didn’t allow a hit until Wellington Castillo’s line-drive single to left to lead off the fifth.
“I thought he was terrific,” Francona said. “I mean, he was raring back and letting it eat. And he was just missing on so many pitches, I was kinda worried his pitch count was gonna get up there pretty quick. But then he had a couple short innings so he could get us through the seventh.
“It’s not easy to do anything in that weather. He just looked really strong the entire game.”
Closer Brad Hand notched his second save, hitting the first batter of the ninth before retiring three straight — the last two on strikeouts.
All-Star third baseman Jose Ramirez, who struggled mightily during the season-opening series in Minnesota, was the only player with more than one hit for the Indians, who had eight hits to the Twins’ three.
Ramirez dropped a bloop single into shallow left field in his first at-bat, drove one to the warning track in center field in the third and connected on a double to left in the sixth.
“He hit that ball (to center) so hard,” Francona said. “That ball clicked off his bat and it didn’t come close (to going out). But he took some good swings.”
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