CLEVELAND (AP)—As the inning unfolded, C.C. Sabathia felt as if he was watching a favorite movie, one with a dialogue he knows by heart and predictable ending.
“Not to sound cocky,” the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner said. “But I think everybody knew what was coming.”
Say this for the Cleveland Indians, they can do drama.
The defending AL Central champions won in familiar fashion at Progressive Field—their ballpark previously known as Jacobs Field—as Casey Blake hit a three-run double in the eighth inning Monday for a 10-8 opening win over the Chicago White Sox.
Blake’s shot off the wall against Octavio Dotel capped a 3-hour, 21-minute opener that featured five homers, controversial calls and unseasonably pleasant weather in a city finally thawed out from the snowiest March on record.
After blowing a 7-2 lead, the Indians loaded the bases in the eighth on two singles and a two-out walk before Blake’s clutch hit.
“It was not that big of a surprise,” said Sabathia, who made his fifth and potentially final opening day start for the Indians. “Nobody in this clubhouse was ever in doubt. We always have faith that somebody would come through and it was Casey—once again.”
They may not play in the Jake anymore, but everything else seemed in place for the Indians, who won 23 times in their final at-bat last season.
With the score 7-7, Kelly Shoppach and Jhonny Peralta opened the eighth with singles off Dotel (0-1), who bounced back and got two quick outs. Franklin Gutierrez, who hit a three-run homer in Cleveland’s seven-run second off Mark Buehrle, walked to load the bases.
Blake fell behind 1-2 in the count before lifting a shot high off the 19-foot-high wall in left, barely missing a grand slam but starting a new chapter of memories for Indians fans, who have resisted the ballpark’s new corporate moniker.
“I was begging for a homer,” said Blake, who batted just .190 with runners in scoring position last year.
Chicago’s Jim Thome hit a pair of two-run homers off Sabathia, who couldn’t protect a 7-2 lead but wound up with a no-decision. The lefty struck out seven in 5 1-3 innings.
The White Sox threatened in the ninth as Jermaine Dye homered off Joe Borowski, last year’s AL saves leader who once again had pulses racing before retiring Joe Crede on a foul pop to get the save for winner Rafael Betancourt.
The comeback didn’t comfort losing’s sting.
“There’s no such thing as a moral victory,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “To come back from 7-2 against C.C. is huge, but give them credit. They got the hits when they needed them and we didn’t.”
Consecutive, debatable went against the White Sox in the eighth, preventing them from going ahead.
Crede led off with a double but was held at third when he had to check up on Juan Uribe’s hard-hit double to left-center off Betancourt. After an intentional walk, Orlando Cabrera bounced to shortstop Jhonny Peralta, whose high throw home for a force pulled catcher Kelly Shoppach off the plate. Shoppach, though, managed to tag Crede as he slid by.
At least that’s the way Gerry Davis saw it.
“Nobody tagged me,” Crede said. “I didn’t feel anything. I went in and looked at the TV replay and he didn’t tag me.”
Thome then shattered his bat on a grounder to second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, who flipped to Peralta. After stepping on the bag for one out, Peralta was making his throw to first when he was grabbed on the left leg by a sliding Orlando Cabrera, who was called out for interference.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sprinted out of his dugout for the second time in minutes to protest another call that didn’t go Chicago’s way.
“The umpire was right,” Guillen said. “I went down and saw the replay.”
Gutierrez and Grady Sizemore homered off Mark Buehrle, who didn’t get out of the second and was disappointed with his first outing of ’08.
“It doesn’t get much more embarrassing for a starting pitcher than that,” the left-hander said.
On their way to building a 7-2 lead, the Indians lost All-Star catcher Victor Martinez to a hamstring injury. Martinez, hurt in last year’s home opener, came up limping while running to second in Cleveland’s big inning, which he started with a base hit and ended with an RBI single.
Martinez was taken for an MRI exam following the game, and the Indians were hoping their best hitter wouldn’t miss much time.
Thome was the first White Sox player to homer twice on opening day since Sammy Sosa in 1991. He has 41 career multihomer games. … Guillen plans to hold a brief meeting before the opener of each series. It’s something new, an idea borrowed from Atlanta’s Bobby Cox, whom Guillen played two seasons for late in his career. The session will be used for scouting, strategy and more. “If I have something to say I’ll say it, and it gives players a chance to speak up,” Guillen said. “We’re going to win and lose as a team.” … It was the earliest home opener in Cleveland history, and the Indians’ first season opener at home since 2001.