Sizemore and the Indians (2-1) return home Friday to take on the Seattle Mariners in the start of a four-game series after an impressive debut on the road.
Sizemore, who led the majors in runs (134) and extra-base hits (92) while topping the AL with 52 doubles in 2006, became the first Indians player to homer in each of the first three games of the season. The center fielder was 6-for-14 (.429) with four RBIs to help the Indians take two of three from the Chicago White Sox.
“He’s going to hit his fair share of home runs,” said manager Eric Wedge, whose team finished fourth in the AL Central last season. “He’s obviously a spark plug for us. He creates a lot of energy for us at the top of our lineup and the beginning of the ballgame.”
Sizemore’s homer Thursday wasn’t enough for Cleveland, which after outscoring Chicago 20-12 the first two games, dropped a 4-3 decision when reliever Roberto Hernandez hit White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski with a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, forcing home the winning run.
The Indians will send Paul Byrd to the mound for their home opener. He went 10-9 with a 4.88 ERA in 31 starts last season and is hoping the addition of a split-finger fastball to his repertoire will help against left-handers, who hit .369 against him in 2006.
“I wasn’t happy with last year, so now is the time to improve for this season,” Byrd said in early March. “I’ve messed around with a split in the past, but never committed two months to really learning it. I’m eager to see how it goes.”
The 36-year-old right-hander made only one start against the Mariners (2-1) last season, allowing six runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings of an 11-9 loss. Lifetime against Seattle, however, he is 6-2 with a 2.29 ERA in eight starts.
Seattle is coming off a 9-0 loss on Thursday to the Oakland Athletics after winning the first two games of the series. Mariners starter Miguel Batista lasted 4 2-3 innings, giving up eight runs and 10 hits, while Seattle managed just three hits.
“There is no excuse. I just didn’t get my job done. That is the reason we lost,” Batista said.
Seattle went 5-4 against the Indians last season, winning four of the six meetings at Jacobs Field.
The team will send Horacio Ramirez to the mound in his AL debut on Friday to open the series. The left-hander spent the last four seasons with the Braves, where he went 30-22 with a 4.13 ERA in 84 starts and 86 appearances, but was hampered by injuries.
Ramirez pitched just 14 games last season after suffering a strained left hamstring, a line drive off his head, and a middle finger sprain on his pitching hand that doctors told him usually happens only to rock climbers. He also missed most of 2004 with shoulder tendinitis and most of 2001 following ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow.
The southpaw is 6-0 with a 2.95 ERA in eight starts against the American League and will be making his first appearance versus the Indians.