Cleveland Wins It Against AL Saves Leader Johnson
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JANIE McCAULEY, AP Baseball Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Terry Francona asked crew chief Mike Winters to review a collision at the plate, and the umpire obliged. The call was confirmed, denying Cleveland the go-ahead run, but the Indians’ manager appreciated how smoothly the new replay process went.
The Indians later delivered on their chances in the ninth, with Nyjer Morgan hitting a go-ahead sacrifice fly against new Athletics closer Jim Johnson as Cleveland 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 to boos from the sellout crowd.
“I would have booed me, too. I (stunk) today, I’ll admit it,” Johnson said. “That’s fine. I deserved it. I expect that. The next time they’re probably going to be cheering.”
In the sixth, Winters became the first umpire to initiate a review under the expanded replay system, making the call after a collision at home plate.
“Basically with the new rule I just wanted to confirm what I saw that the catcher did not block the plate unnecessarily,” Winters said. “He was in fair territory, he gave the runner plenty of plate to go to. I just wanted to be sure.”
The call was confirmed in 59 seconds and the game remained scoreless.
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. Francona came out to discuss the play.
“I just wanted to check and see if Jaso had blocked the plate. We’ve all discussed the new rulings and what you’re allowed to do and what you aren’t,” Francona said. “I just asked him if he’d look because I thought maybe he had gotten there a little too early. … I appreciated him checking.”
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.
“That was interesting,” Francona said.
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 before the bullpens took over to decide it. Masterson allowed three hits, struck out four and walked one in seven scoreless innings, lowering his ERA on opening day to 0.86.
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 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 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. It started pouring again shortly after the game ended.
NOTES: 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 on Tuesday, and Francona expected a meeting when the team returns home to face Minnesota on Thursday. … 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.
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