Here are my thoughts.
Typical Mark Buehrle Opening Day game if you are a Tribe fan. Either he is a hair off and the Tribe rips him for eight runs and a granny in the first inning, or he mows them down like grass all day. This was the latter.
The Indians never got a runner to third, and the crowd was pretty much on cruise control the whole day. Nobody gave me any guff because it was the least stressful baseball game they had ever attended. One of the most beautiful Opening Day games ever as well; the rain and cold will return for the rest of the series.
The between the legs flip play Buehrle made was the second best play I have ever seen in person and very well could be the best we see all year. It was shown on the Jumbotron six times. Pretty cool when you can remark to the fans next to you, “We just witnessed the best play of the season.” Weird how it came that early.
In my opinion the best play of last season also happened at the Cell: Dewayne Wise robbing Gabe Kapler of a home run to preserve Buehrle’s perfect game.
Jake Westbrook was rusty, physically and mentally. The loudest the crowd got all day was just after Paul Konerko’s first-inning dinger. They cheered loudly for a curtain call, and Westbrook was so dead set on pitching quickly he threw to the next hitter right in the middle of it.
Of course it was ball one, and he ended up walking the hitter and prolonging an inning he did not want to prolong. It would have been nice to see him step off and take a moment for the crowd to die down.
Speaking of stepping off, I didn’t notice the Indians doing much to disrupt Buehrle’s rhythm. In the past some of the more veteran players have stepped out of the box to try to slow him down when he’s rolling, maybe get under his skin while they’re at it.
Maybe I missed it, but that didn’t happen yesterday, and maybe it’s because the Tribe is a little thin on veterans. Jhonny Peralta should be trying to fill that role, but he will never be up to it. He was 0-for-2, by the way, as their top right-handed bat.
Manny Acta might be cutting off his nose to spite his face with this team. What I mean is, it was well documented how he did a lot of research in preparation for his interview to get the Indians' managerial job. He knows the mistakes made last year and knows he needs to be that different voice.
I got the feeling he is determined to manage the complete opposite way of Eric Wedge no matter the result. That sounded nice to me a month ago, but now I am not so sure...
If Wedgie was managing this game, he would've had multiple guys playing out of position to stack the lineup with right-handed hitters to counteract the lefty starter Buehrle: something absurd like Ryan Garko in left, Jamey Carroll in center, and Kelly Shoppach at third base. Opposite Day Acta meanwhile, threw out the lineup he intends to use every day, no matter who the opposing pitcher is.
While I like this philosophy in general, I think it burned them yesterday. Batting three consecutive lefties in Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, and Travis Hafner at the top of the order made it easy on Buehrle and Ozzie Guillen and will make it easy on the opposition down the line.
For example, Guillen went to reliever J.J. Putz for the end of the Indians' lineup in the eighth inning, then seamlessly to lefty Matt Thornton to face those three lefty hitters in the ninth. Thornton blew away Sizemore and Choo on six straight pitches. A no-brainer.
Overall I do prefer Acta’s approach and think the players will respond favorably if their batting order and positions aren’t constantly jumbled, so this is a welcome change. I just think he is going to have to find some middle ground here down the line. There is nothing wrong with having very similar, albeit different, regular lineup cards to use against a lefty starter and a righty.
That being said, his choices are limited with a rebuilding team, and Buehrle has started eight Opening Days for a reason: He is a wonderful pitcher.
It’s pick your poison with him when he is on like yesterday. Either you try to be patient and lay off all his junk, then you look up and you're down 0-2, or you try to be aggressive because he is throwing strikes, so you swing at the junk and he puts together those nine-pitch innings. Maddening.
The Indians couldn’t deliver in their two promising innings. Their margin of error was thin. Matt LaPorta grounded into a double play in the second inning and in all honesty, looked slower than Josh Bard doing it. Sizemore flied out harmlessly after getting down in the count 0-2 with two men on base in the third inning.
To my point above, LaPorta tried to be aggressive in his at-bat and got burned, while Sizemore tried to be patient in his at-bat and got burned. Pick your poison.
The Sox scored in every other inning for a while, the first, third, and fifth. It would have been nice if they scored in the fourth so all the Indians fans like me could have a least gotten a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee out of the deal.
Asdrubal Cabrera made an impression. With Omar Vizquel in attendance, he had a single and took away two hits, maybe three, on the other side with some nifty defensive plays. He is their best player at the moment.
I ripped Jensen Lewis as soon as he got in the game, and he made me eat my words, setting the side down nicely in the eighth with two Ks.
The last out of the game was the best ball the Tribe hit all day. A two-strike shot from Hafner looked like a sure double off the bat until Alex Rios was able to run it down with a great diving catch to the end the game. Pretty much the Sox's day all around.
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