OAKLAND, Calif. — Nyjer Morgan hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the ninth inning against new Athletics closer Jim Johnson and the Cleveland Indians sent Oakland to its major league-record 10th straight opening loss with a 2-0 victory Monday night.
Nick Swisher added an RBI single against Johnson (0-1), who was then pulled from his A’s debut.
In the sixth, crew chief Mike Winters became the first umpire to initiate a review under the expanded replay system, making the call after a collision at home plate.
Winters requested the review on a close play that kept Cleveland from breaking a scoreless tie. The call was confirmed in 59 seconds.
Winters wanted to see if A’s catcher John Jaso had illegally blocked the plate under baseball’s new rule regarding home plate collisions. With Michael Brantley on third and one out, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a comebacker that ricocheted off pitcher Sonny Gray’s foot.
Gray quickly retrieved the ball and fired home to Jaso, who tagged a sliding Brantley. Cleveland manager Terry Francona came out to discuss the play, then Winters went to replay and the call was confirmed.
Oakland’s Josh Donaldson hit a single off the top of the wall near the 400-foot sign in center in the eighth, but Daric Barton held up at second waiting to tag in case the ball was caught, and the A’s failed to score the go-ahead run.
Cody Allen (1-0) then struck out Jed Lowrie and retired Brandon Moss on a grounder to first.
Justin Masterson, in his third straight Opening Day outing, and Gray dueled in a scoreless game before the bullpens took over to decide it.
The game began just four minutes behind schedule under blue skies, a best-case scenario considering the downpour a couple of hours earlier.
Gray walked the first two batters of the game but quickly settled in to throw six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and three walks in a 105-pitch opener.
The right-hander, who dueled with Detroit ace Justin Verlander in Game 2 of last fall’s Division Series, earned the start after Jarrod Parker was lost to season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Yan Gomes went 1-for-3 only hours after finalizing a new $23 million, six-year contract with the Indians. He was plunked in the left elbow in the ninth. John Axford finished for Cleveland, striking out Nick Punto to end it with runners on first and second.
A couple of dozen grounds crew workers carried large brooms to sweep water off the tarp all afternoon. The Indians briefly came out to right field to go through some warmups during a break in the rain some three hours before first pitch.
The two-time reigning AL West champion A’s took the field 90 minutes before first pitch under the lights when the rain finally slowed — some even in short sleeves.
- Cleveland CF Michael Bourn, on the DL to start the year with a left hamstring strain, ran down a ball and hit a pair of doubles in a minor league game. He was set to go to Triple-A Columbus today, and Francona expected a meeting when the team returns home to face Minnesota on Thursday. “I just know when I look at the reports and I see him doing well I feel good because that means he’ll be back,” Francona said.
- The Indians signed C George Kottaras and RHP Mark Lowe to minor league deals and sent them to Columbus.
- Gray was Oakland’s ninth different Opening Day starter in nine years.
- Masterson was the first Indians pitcher to start three straight openers since CC Sabathia from 2006-08. Ex-A’s RHP Bartolo Colon did it for Cleveland in 2000-02.
- Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson threw out the ceremonial first pitch.