CLEVELAND — The return of LeBron James to the Cavaliers carried the day, but the night belonged to the Indians.
Keeping the excitement going from one of the most memorable events in Cleveland sports history, the Indians opened a three-game series against Central Division rival Chicago with a resounding 7-4 victory at Progressive Field.
Lonnie Chisenhall’s two-out single tied it in the fifth inning, and Nick Swisher followed with a winning two-run home run to send the Indians to their fifth win in seven games.
None of the heroics would have been possible had manager Terry Francona not won a replay challenge.
Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was ruled out at second base on a stolen base attempt to end the fifth inning after Carlos Santana struck out. Francona challenged the call and replays showed that White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez had missed the swipe tag on Cabrera.
The call was overturned, and Chisenhall hit the first pitch he saw from Chicago starter Hector Noesi for an RBI single that tied the game at 4. Swisher connected on an 0-1 pitch from Noesi and drove it over the center-field wall for his eighth homer of the year.
“Obviously, it was a huge call for us,” Francona said.
Corey Kluber, who lost out to White Sox pitcher Chris Sale in the Internet vote for the final AL All-Star spot, wasn’t as dominant as he has been for much of the season, allowing four runs on eight hits over six innings.
But Cleveland’s offense rode to its pitcher’s rescue.
“It wasn’t my best but the important thing is we got a win,” Kluber said. “The offense did a good job. Every time I gave up runs, they bounced right back and scored and answered. And then the bullpen shut them down.”
“Tonight, he had to work a little bit. He gave up four runs,” Francona said. “Saying that, he still pitched through six (innings).”
Each time Kluber allowed runs in an inning, the Indians answered. Kluber allowed two in the second, then David Murphy’s two-run homer tied it in the bottom of the inning. Chicago went ahead 3-2 in the fourth, but the Indians tied it again on a bases-loaded walk to Chris Dickerson.
Adam Dunn’s leadoff homer put the White Sox back up by a run in the fifth before the Indians took control for good with their three-run uprising.
“I just think that’s how things are going right now. We’re all really picking each other up,” Swisher said. “Everyone’s carrying their weight right now. We’re dangerous one through nine right now.”
Swisher has begun to pick up steam at the plate, hitting safely in seven straight games with three homers and nine RBIs.
“I think he’s certainly doing much better,” Francona said. “The batting average probably won’t be where it has been, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he got the home runs and power numbers (back to normal). Guys have a way of doing that.”
Cleveland’s bullpen rose to the occasion as well, with a trio of relievers — John Axford, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen — holding the Sox without a hit over the final three innings. Chicago didn’t get a hit after Dunn’s leadoff homer in the fifth, with Cleveland relievers striking out six of the final eight batters.
James’ return to Cleveland coupled with an Indians win made for a big night on the lakefront.
“There was a lot of excitement tonight,” Swisher said. “I know there’s going to be a lot of talk of if there’s enough fans in Cleveland to support all three teams. In my mind there’s absolutely plenty. I think a lot of people take a lot of pride in all three aspects — baseball, football, basketball.
“I know everybody outside this stadium is super stoked about what’s to come, and so are we. It feels like we’re really kind of turning things on at the right time.”