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Frustration turns to exhilaration as Tribe wins home opener

4/20/2017 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

The defending American League champions were introduced to a sold-out crowd at the Cleveland Indians home opener April 11 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The announced attendance was 35,002.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis took a break from his Akron rehab assignment to be with his Tribe teammates for the Cleveland Indians home opener April 11. Also with the Tribe for the opener was rehabbing outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall.
Manager Terry Francona, speaking about Michael Brantley’s game-winning double, said, “Today was a special day and for him to cap it off, I sure felt really good for him. I know it felt really good for us.”
Photos: Craig Marks
CLEVELAND — We had seen this movie before. For the second Cleveland Indians home game in a row, members of the Cleveland Orchestra performed the national anthem. A sold-out crowd was in attendance. The game went into extra innings.

But unlike what transpired at the end of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the outcome of the Indians home opener was more agreeable for Tribe fans. The Indians beat the Chicago White Sox 2-1 in 10 innings April 11, stopping a three-game skid.

With two outs in the 10th inning, Michael Brantley hit a shot down the left-field line, scoring Francisco Lindor from first. Lindor had gotten the Indians their first run with a solo homer in the first inning.

Between the first inning and the last, the Indians failed to take advantage of several good scoring chances. Twice, Edwin Encarnación bounced into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.

“To say it was potentially a frustrating day is probably an understatement,” said Indians Manager Terry Francona. “For the amount of hits we had, we had a lot of opportunities. It seems, especially late in the game, we couldn’t push a run across.”

In the games following the opener, the Tribe would embark on another losing streak, the kind that turns potential frustration into realized frustration. But the home opener was a chance to reflect on positives, such as the return of Brantley, who spent all but 11 games of last season on the disabled list.

“He uses the whole field,” said Francona. “It’s hard to defend him because he hits the ball from line to line.”

Carlos Carrasco gave the Indians a solid start, giving up one run in seven innings. Andrew Miller took over in the eighth, and his relief appearance was uncharacteristically bumpy. He would have likely given up two runs had third baseman Yandy Diaz not made a diving stop of a Tyler Saladino line drive with runners on second and third.

Francona credited third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh for putting Diaz in position to stab the liner.

“That was a great play, but I think Sarby deserves an assist,” he said. “About two pitches before that, he turns to me and says, ‘Would it be OK if I back him up about three steps?’ And if he doesn’t back him up, [Diaz] doesn’t have that chance to make that great play.”

Sarbaugh is a former manager and hitting coach of the Akron Aeros. In 2009, he led the Aeros to the Eastern League title.

Before the Tribe home opener, Sarbaugh and other returning members of the Indians received their championship rings for winning the American League pennant. A championship flag was raised in center field.

The Indians will be back at home April 25 to face the Houston Astros, after games on the road against the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox.

The Akron RubberDucks return to Canal Park April 21 to take on the Altoona Curve.

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