Tribe wins home opener
CLEVELAND – Before leaving frigid Progressive Field, Nick Swisher delivered a final message in his signature style.
“Happy Bro-pening day everyone,” he yelled.
Swisher made the Indians’ home opener one to remember.
Cleveland’s first baseman with the infectious attitude hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning, two batters after Yan Gomes connected for a solo shot, leading the Indians to a 7-2 home-opening win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
Swisher’s homer off Mike Pelfrey (0-1) allowed the Indians to cap a day of pomp and pageantry as they celebrated Progressive Field’s 20th anniversary. Before the sixth, the Indians had been shut out by Pelfrey and were in danger of disappointing a sellout crowd that stuck around following a 2-hour, 13-minute rain delay and plummeting temperatures.
But Swisher, who added a run-scoring double in Cleveland’s four-run seventh, helped the Indians win their first home opener since 2008.
“I was just so proud of the way the guys fought, man,” Swisher said. “Maybe that will be the identity of this team – the fact that we’re gonna fight. And regardless of the situation or the obstacle in front of us, we’re always gonna take that head-on.”
Indians reliever Josh Outman (1-0) recorded two outs after coming in for starter Danny Salazar in the sixth and got the win.
Michael Brantley hit a two-run single in the seventh for the Indians, who were flat and hitless through four innings. But Gomes and Swisher woke the Indians up in the sixth when they finally figured out Pelfrey.
Chris Colabello homered for the Twins, who jumped on Salazar for two runs in the first inning and were coasting toward a win when Pelfrey fell apart.
Gomes got things started in the sixth with his leadoff homer, a lined shot into the center-field bullpen to trim Minnesota’s lead to 2-1. Lonnie Chisenhall walked and Nyjer Morgan sacrificed.
Up came Swisher, who fell behind 0-1 before belting his homer, a towering fly pushed deeper into the right-field seats by the gusty winds.
Swisher posed to watch the ball’s flight and then punctuated the homer by flipping his bat as he headed down the first-base line. After crossing home plate, the Ohio native saluted Cleveland’s crowd by raising his arms and making an “O” and then “H” an “I” and “O.”
It was typical Swisher – animated and enthusiastic.
“I think everybody gets a kick out of it,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Swisher’s theatrics. “Maybe not the other team. But I think our guys like it.”
Said Swisher: “I’m going to be who I am.”
Before the game, Swisher complimented Cleveland’s front office for signing All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis to a six-year, $52.5 million contract hours before the opener.
“Bro, I think it’s awesome, so amazing,” he said. “I feel that we’re starting to create an identity of who we are.”
That process began last season, when the Indians won their last 10 games to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007. They lost the wild-card game to Tampa Bay, but Cleveland entered this season with expectations to go even further this October.
Until then, Swisher wants everyone to stay warm.
“Everybody go home and get a hot cocoa,” he said.
NOTES: Cleveland has won seven straight over Minnesota. … Kipnis’ signing means 16 of the 25 players on the Indians’ roster are signed through at least 2016. … Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has a special fondness for Progressive Field, known as Jacobs Field for most of its history. “I love this place,” he said. “It’s a beautiful atmosphere with the city in the background and the dude banging on the drum out there. Not too many ballparks have fans sitting right next to your dugout in a glassed-in area offering you a beer.” … Former Indians manager Mike Hargrove threw out the ceremonial first pitch, skipping it to first-base coach Sandy Alomar, who played for Hargrove.