Nick Swisher drove in three runs between the sixth and seventh innings of Friday's 7-2 Indians win over Minnesota
CLEVELAND -- The heart of the order for the Cleveland Indians struggled early, but came up big in the latter stages of their 7-2 victory of the Minnesota Twins in the home opener at Progressive Field on Friday.
Perhaps, the two-hour, 13-minute rain delay slowed the Tribe's bats, but Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley broke through and combined to drive in five runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
"For us, it's a win, and that's what we showed up for about 12 hours ago, but that's what we got and it's good," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
"We had a great crowd. People braved the weather. When you're losing, it feels cold, and when you're winning, it feels balmy, but a lot of people weathered it. Even to the end, there were some people that stayed. It was pretty neat."
The Indians were not able to register a hit or get a base runner in the first four innings of play, but they were get to Twins starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey in the bottom of the sixth.
Cleveland's No. 8 hitter, catcher Yan Gomes, worked a count full and fouled off a pitch to stay alive before taking a pitch deep into the Tribe's center field bullpen for a 402-foot home run, his first of the year.
The Indians, however, were not done playing long ball in the sixth inning.
After designated hitter Lonnie Chisenhall worked a walk out of a full count, lead-off hitter Nyjer Morgan laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced Chisenhall to second base with one out. Then, Swisher came to the plate.
Swisher fouled the first pitch off the press box window, but then, belted a 418-foot home run to the seats in right field.
"I thought it was his fastball command for about five innings, especially, to our left-handers," Francona said of why it took so long for the Indians to break through against Pelfrey. "He just kept pounding it in. He threw it for strikes. He jammed us. He opened up the plate, and then, he'd throw it away. He really didn't get a lot to his off-speed, didn't need to. He just kind of handcuffed us, and then, Gomer (Gomes) stayed on one, and all of a sudden, a couple hitters later, we've got the lead. It seemed like it changed everything."
Then, in the sixth inning, the Indians sent nine batters to the plate, and four came around to score.
With one out, Gomes singled to left-center field, which started a string of four straight hits for the Indians, as Chisenhall followed up the single with a double of his own to put runners at second and third.
Then, Morgan drove home Gomes with a sharp single to right field, but the big hits were yet to come, as Swisher stepped in and hit an RBI double. The Twins intentionally walked Carlos Santana and loaded the bases for Brantley.
And that was when "Dr. Smooth" made another house call.
Brantley took a 1-0 pitch right back up the middle to center field, which plated Morgan and Swisher for the final two runs of the four-run inning.
"I've been putting good swings on good, quality pitches, trying to get the barrel to the baseball as much as possible," Brantley said. "My teammates are doing a great job of getting on base for me in critical situations. I love it. My teammates do a great job, and it was a team effort tonight, and it was fun. It was a great opening day. For a Cleveland fan, you couldn't ask for much more."