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The AL Central Report #5: Opening Day From Cleveland

There’s only going to be one Opening Day this year, so that calls for a running diary of the White Sox vs. Indians clash, straight from Jacobs… er… Progressive Field. Here we go…

Pregame: Comcast brings the Nickelback the opening and Illinois couldn’t be more thrilled. Something about “The Show,” so it’s major league-ready.

Top 1st: Indians are rocking the throwback uniforms, or perhaps just a new look this season. They even have a new cap design with 100% less racist caricature. It’s good to see that C.C. Sabathia didn’t let a little thing like a Cy Young award change his conditioning program this offseason. He may have even put on a few pounds. Orlando Cabrera walked and stole second, and then Jim Thome followed with an absolute bullet into the right-center seats. No further damage for the Sox, and we’re 2-0 after a half-inning.

Bottom 1st: Mark Buerhle gets off to a good start with a 1-2-3 first inning.

Top 2nd: Even the lefthanded batters are getting good cuts at Sabathia’s fastball so far. A.J. Pierzynski smokes a ball into the right field corner for a double, but Juan Uribe can’t get him around, and we’re still 2-0 Sox.

Bottom 2nd: After Victor Martinez starts off with a single up the middle, Orlando Cabrera nearly injures himself while jumping out of the path of a Jhonny Peralta liner and turns it into a single. Martinez pulled up lame on the way to second, which is no good. Ryan Garko loads the bases with a blooper, and then Asdrubal Cabrera gets an RBI groundout. Ricky Gutierrez follows with a three-run bomb to left on a hanging change, or so it appeared, and we’re 4-2 Tribe. Two batters later, teen heartthrob Grady Sizemore yanks a fastball into the right field seats for a solo homer. Three more batters, three base runners, and that’ll do it for Buehrle. Nick Masset allows two of the inherited runners to score, so that puts Buehrle’s ERA at a cool 37.60 for the season. 7-2 Indians after two.

Top 3rd: Jim Thome is single-handedly keeping the Sox in the neighborhood, as he adds a second two-run homer to cut the lead to 7-4. He’s on a 972 homer pace right now, which would break the single-season record.

Bottom 3rd: Masset holds down Cleveland.

Top 4th: Sabathia’s fastball appears to be getting better movement now, and he may be starting to settle down. It’s clear that Nick Swisher is new on the team, because he’s being nice to A.J. in the dugout. Sabathia barehands a one-hopper back to the mound from Joe Crede, which seems about right.

Bottom 4th: New Sox center fielder Alexei Ramirez makes a nice diving catch coming in on a ball.

Top 5th: Sabathia is hitting 97 on the gun, looking tougher the longer he goes.

Top 6th: Konerko flies out, which I think is the first ball they’ve gotten out of the infield since Thome’s second homer three innings ago. Ramirez is super skinny, so it’ll be interesting to see if any of his power from the Cuban league translates. C.C. is done after giving up 5 runs, but Jensen Lewis comes in and slams the door.

Bottom 6th: Masset continues to get it done, and it’s still 7-5 Indians.

Top 7th: After two bloop singles to start the inning, southpaw Rafael Perez comes in to face Thome. Perez was lights out all last regular season, but he got shelled in the playoffs. This looks more like playoff Perez, as Thome hits one on the screws that Jason Michaels was able to chase down, and then Konerko gaps one to score two. Tie ballgame, and despite his ugly outing, this is just a no-decision for Buehrle. Indians catch a break when Garko keeps his foot on first on a wild throw by Peralta which could have led to more runs. Looks like his toe may have been off the bag there. 7-7 tie at the stretch.

Top 8th: Cleveland gets another call as Joe Crede gets called out on a play at the plate although replays indicate Kelly Shoppach missed the tag.

Bottom 8th: Indians capitalize on their breaks as Casey Blake hits a three-run double off offseason acquisition Octavio Dotel to give them a 10-7 lead.

Top 9th: One more big call goes the Indians’ way as interference is called on Orlando Cabrera on a hard slide into second, giving the Indians the automatic double play. A run scores, but that pretty much kills the rally and the Indians hang on. It’s really not a good idea to give Hawk and DJ reasons for righteous indignation this early in the year, but we can’t choose these things. Certainly no pitchers’ duel, but an entertaining game to kick off the year.

Final Score: Indians 10, White Sox 8

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