TORONTO – Justin Masterson kept Blue Jays bats in check as the Cleveland Indians spoiled R.A. Dickey’s Toronto debut with a 4-1 win before a sellout Opening Day crowd of 48,857 at Rogers Centre on Tuesday night.
The loss may be a splash of cold water on the face of Toronto fans already planning a championship parade given the extensive, expensive retooling of the roster over the winter. Cleveland planted a few seeds of reality under the dome but there is still plenty of the time for the Jays to harvest wins.
Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-run homer for the Indians, who took advantage of some early passed balls as knuckleballer Dickey’s fledgling partnership with catcher J.P. Arencibia showed some teething problems.
Dickey (0-1) went six innings in his first Opening Day start, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits with four strikeouts, four walks and a wild pitch. He threw 104 pitches, including 60 strikes.
Masterson (1-0) struck out five and walked four while giving up one earned run and three hits in his six innings. His pitch count was close to Dickey’s: 103 pitches, 61 strikes. Indians closer Chris Perez earned the save.
Toronto left five on base over the first three innings and then Masterson found his touch – he dismissed 11 in a row starting in the third. Some sharp Cleveland fielding also helped blunt the Toronto attack.
The Jays’ starting lineup featured five newcomers: shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielder Melky Cabrera, third baseman Maicer Izturis, second baseman Emilio Bonifacio and Dickey. The quintet is due to make US$28.85 million this season.
The five are among 11 new faces on the Jays’ 25-man revamped roster this season, boosting total payroll to north of $125 million.
The Indians also boasted a new look with manager Terry Francona and free agent signings Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Mark Reynolds.
Rush rock star Geddy Lee threw out the first pitch on a night that felt more like a playoff game than the season opener with an enthusiastic pompon-waving crowd. The first chant of “Let’s go Blue Jays” echoed before the anthems,
The sellout crowd made for some good viewing later, with a lower bowl section moving in unison – like a wheat field in the wind – to evade a foul ball whipped low into the stands. But the Indians did their bit to quell the fans.
Dickey and Masterson both took their time finding their rhythm. Dickey, the 2012 NL Cy Young Award-winner was throwing in the high 70s m.p.h. while Masterson was in the mid-90s.
Dickey, who came out to his beloved “Star Wars” music, opened with a ball that eluded Arencibia. The catcher had three passed balls on the night.
The Jays knuckleballer had No. 3 hitter Jason Kipnis so twisted in knots in the first inning that he let go of his bat during a swing and it landed in the second row behind the Jays dugout. A Toronto fan brandished it menacingly at the Indian second baseman, who was loudly cheered moments later as he struck out.
Masterson opened with a bit of everything: walking a batter and hitting one but escaped unharmed thanks to a double play and strikeout.
Cleveland went ahead in the second, courtesy of a single by Michael Brantley, two passed balls and a fielder’s choice by Lonnie Chisenhall. Drew Stubbs then singled in Reynolds, who had got on base via a walk, to make it 2-0.
Toronto had men on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the second but Reyes grounded out.
Dickey managed a 1-2-3 inning in the third, although his infield had to be on its toes to make it happen.
Melky Cabrera scored in the third to cut the lead to 2-1 but the Jays could have had more, given they had the bases loaded and no one out thanks to a Cabrera single and a pair of walks. But shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera made a nice reflex stop on Adam Lind to trigger a double play – with Melky Cabrera scoring – and Masterson then struck out Arencibia to put out the fire.
Asdrubal Cabrera showed his offensive skills in the fifth, slamming Dickey’s 79th pitch of the night over the right-field fence with Bourn aboard to increase Cleveland’s lead to 4-1.
Dickey gave way to Aaron Loup, Sergio Santos and Brett Cecil. Joe Smith, Vinne Pistano and Perez followed Masterson.
Manager John Gibbons, marking the start of his second stint at the Jays’ helm, saw his career Toronto managerial record fall to 305-306.
His starting lineup featured four switch-hitters (Reyes, Cabrera, Izturis and Bonifacio) and five Dominicans batting 1-2-3-4 and 9 (Reyes, Cabrera, right-fielder Jose Bautista, first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and Bonifacio).
Toronto had won six of its previous eight openers, including the last two. Cleveland, in contrast, had lost four straight and eight of its last 10.
Replay the Global News live blog from the home opener below.