Sure, Tommy Kahnle gave up a game-winning double to Michael Brantley in the 10th inning, but look at it this way: It could have happened two innings sooner.
Brantley’s extra-base hit cemented a victory in the Indians’ home opener, and a season-starting walk-off against the White Sox after three last season. It also underscored a weird decision by somebody on the Indians in the eighth inning that helped Nate Jones escape what crested as a bases-loaded one-out jam.
Jones opened that inning with two walks to bring Francisco Lindor to the plate. Lindor, who homered off James Shields in the first for Cleveland’s only run to that point ... bunted.
Whoever’s idea it was, it was foolish for two reasons. For starters, it kept their best hitter from swinging the bat. Secondly, it also took the bat out of Michael Brantley’s hands against a right-handed pitcher. With first base open, Rick Renteria called for the intentional walk to load the bases for Edwin Encarnacion.
Encarnacion had already grounded into one inning-ending 5-4-3 double play with the bases loaded — coaxed by Zach Putnam in the sixth inning — and sure enough, he did it again to send the tie game into the ninth.
That sequence came to mind after Lindor drew a two-out walk from Kahnle in the 10th to extend the inning to Brantley. Facing another hard-throwing righty, Brantley won a six-pitch battle by taking a fastball just off the plate into the left-field corner to score Lindor from first.
It’s hard to blame the pitching for this one regardless. Shields shook off Lindor’s first-inning blast to throw 51⁄3 innings of otherwise-scoreless ball. He allowed just two hits and two walks, retiring 12 in a row at one point. Rick Renteria once again didn’t ask too much from him. Shields gave up a leadoff double and a firm lineout to left to start the sixth, and Renteria went to the bullpen.
After Shields recorded 16 outs with just one run allowed, the bullpen held Cleveland scoreless over the next 16 outs, even if it wobbled during. Dan Jennings initially relieved Shields, but it was Zach Putnam who had to bail him out by getting the bases-loaded double play from Encarnacion. In the seventh, Putnam stranded another leadoff double with two strikeouts and a groundout.
Seeing Jones barely survive the eighth, Renteria went to his closer in a tie game on the road in the ninth, and David Robertson delivered. He gave up a one-out single that advanced to second when Tim Anderson’s ill-advised attempt to turn two bounced past Jose Abreu’s ill-advised attempt to scoop it, rather than block it. Robertson struck out Yan Gomes to make it moot.
Alas, the White Sox offense couldn’t get the second run it needed. Carlos Carrasco held down the Chicago hitters not named “Todd Frazier” over seven innings, while Frazier picked a good time for his first good game. He registered the team’s first hit with a scalded double in the second inning, then got some elevation the next time up for a solo shot to left, tying the game. He also started the pair of bases-loaded twin killings, so he couldn’t have brought much more to the table.
Oddly enough, the offense looked its best against Andrew Miller. Avisail Garcia flied out to the warning track in right, foreshadowing an opposite-field approach deployed more successfully by Geovany Soto (inside-out single) and Matt Davidson (wind-aided double off the wall). Davidson pinch-hit for Jacob May, which is what Renteria might’ve wanted to do a few days ago against Minnesota had he not jumped the gun with the defensive substitution.
Tyler Saladino also tracked Miller well, pulling a line drive to the left side. Unfortunately, it found the glove of a diving Yandy Diaz for the second out. The good approaches ended with Anderson, who watched a pitcher’s-pitch fastball on 1-0, then swung over two sliders to end the Sox’ last good threat.
*The White Sox were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. On a related note, four different Sox were 0-for-4.
*Kahnle hit 100 mph twice according to Statcast, which is two more 100-mph pitches than the White Sox have thrown over the last over the previous three seasons combined.