04/01/11 9:00 PM ET
Intriguing opening act for White Sox, Indians
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
This sunny afternoon affair would be more in the category of a portrait such as "Dogs Playing Poker", as opposed to a great masterpiece. But it certainly was entertaining and had more than its share of interesting twists and turns.
Actually, this battle almost qualifies as two games for the price of one. The White Sox won the early contest, holding a 14-0 lead after five innings that seemed impossible for the Indians to erase.
But Cleveland outscored the White Sox by a 10-1 margin over the final four innings, posting four in the sixth, three in the seventh, two in the eighth and one in the ninth, nearly offsetting a four-run White Sox third and an eight-run White Sox fourth.
"All I could think was I don't know if I remember many Opening Day games this way -- 14-0 right off the bat," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "But we battled back and we like that. These guys are not going to give up."
"It was different," said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham, who finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored. "When I came out of the game [in the bottom of the sixth], it was like we were going to cruise and all of a sudden the Indians bats picked up. It was an interesting game, that's for sure."
Take Beckham as an example of this strangeness on Friday. During a rough sophomore campaign in 2010, Beckham had at least three hits in a game on just two occasions: July 11 against the Royals and July 18 against the Twins. So, he's already off to a faster start with the bat in Year 3 as compared to Year 2.
Two home runs on Friday needed the umpires' review in order to be made official. In the third, three batters after Adam Dunn went deep for the first time as a member of the White Sox, Carlos Quentin drove a Carmona pitch out to left-center. The ball bounced back onto the field after a fan missed a catch near the wall, but the review ruled Quentin's drive hit above the yellow line marking a home run.
In the seventh, during the prime of Cleveland's comeback, Carlos Santana hit a two-run shot almost to the same spot as Quentin to end a rough afternoon for White Sox reliever Will Ohman. It looked as if a fan might have reached over and turned a Santana double into a long ball, but the umpires again upheld the original call.
These two teams combined for the most runs scored on Opening Day since the Padres claimed a 16-13 victory in San Francisco on April 5, 1983. The last team to score 15 or more runs in the first game of the season was the 2010 Braves, who inflicted their punishment on the Cubs.
Fifteen runs marked the most ever allowed by the Indians in an opener. The previous high-water mark came in a 21-14 win over the St. Louis Browns in 1925. And those 15 runs scored by the White Sox stand as their greatest Opening Day total since a 17-3 victory at St. Louis in 1951.
Four Indians pitchers combined to produce 14 strikeouts, which is truly finding a silver lining from a very dark rain cloud. Chris Sale's eighth-inning strikeout of Shin-Soo Choo and Jesse Crain's strikeout of Jack Hannahan to end the game were the only two produced by the White Sox.
Carmona made his first career Opening Day start one to forget, giving up 10 earned runs on 11 hits over three-plus innings. The 10 runs he allowed were a career high, and tied with Early Wynn (Senators, 1948), Oral Hildebrand (Browns, 1937) and George Earnshaw (A's, 1932) for the second-highest total of earned runs allowed on Opening Day. White Sox pitcher Vern Kennedy holds this dubious record, permitting 11 in 1937.
Carmona's individual loss also snaps a personal seven-game winning streak held over the White Sox dating back to April 13, 2007.
Mark Buehrle took the mound for his franchise-record ninth Opening Day start. The southpaw improved to 3-0 with a 4.55 ERA lifetime on Opening Day against the Indians.
Certainly not a lack of story lines in the 29th Opening Day battle between these two. Day 2 in this series will have a hard time living up to this opening act, especially with cold and snow in the forecast. But so would most regular-season contests.
"Opening Day is such a special day, just because spring is ending and all the hype surrounding the season," Dunn said. "Everyone is tied for first. And for us to go out offensively and do what we did today, that's a pretty special Opening Day."