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OAKLAND, Calif . – Baseball’s hot spot – expanded use of instant replay and the new rules preventing home plate collisions – came together Monday night to slap the Indians in the face in the season opener.
No worries. The Indians have been slapped around plenty in their long history and Monday night they bounced back to beat Oakland, 2-0, at O.co Coliseum.
Nyjer Morgan and Nick Swisher each drove in run in the ninth inning for the victory. Morgan, who made the opening day roster as non-roster player, hit a bases-loaded sacirfice fly off Jim Johnson for the first run of the game. Swisher followed with a single through the middle.
John Axford, in his Indians debut, pitched the ninth for the save. It was his first since Oct. 2, 2012 when he pitched for Milwaukee.
Masterson, Marc Rzepczynski, Cody Allen and Axford combined on five-hitter. Allen earned the win.
The runs came too late for Justin Masterson, but the Tribe's No.1 starter picked up right where he left off in spring training. Masterson, 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA in the Cactus League, threw seven scoreless innings, limiting the A's to three hits, while striking out four.
The play in question happened in the sixth with Michael Brantley on third and Ryan Raburn on first with one out in a scoreless games.
Asdrubal Cabrera sent a bouncer back to the mound that glanced off Sonny Gray’s leg with Brantley sprinting home. Gray recovered and threw to catcher John Jaso, who appeared to be blocking the plate before receiving the ball. Although that’s always been a rule, it was really never enforced, but it was supposed to be this year to reduce injuries.
Brantley slid into Jaso, who applied the tag and was called out by plate umpire and crew chief Mike Winters. Indians manager Terry Francona came out to discuss the play, but he did not issue a challenge. The man who issued the challenge was Winters himself.
He contacted MLB’s replay headquarters in New York. The umpires on hand reviewed the play and said Brantley was out. The whole process took 59 seconds.
If the umpires in New York had ruled that Jaso illegally blocked the plate, the Indians would have been awarded a run and the lead.
Gray struck out Murphy to end the inning. The Indians went 1-for-11 with runners inn scoring position against Gray.
Gray and Masterson hooked up in a pitching duel. Masterson threw just 92 pitches, 61 for strikes.
The Oakland right-hander threw six scoreless innings, striking out seven, walking three and allowing five hits.
The Indians were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position after five innings. They kept creating scoring chances and Gray kept erasing then.
Morgan and Swisher opened the game with consecutive walks. Jason Kipnis struck out, Carlos Santana hit into a force play at second and Brantley grounded out.
Gray walked Santana in the fourth and gave up a double to Brantley that skipped over first base on its way to the right field corner. With runners on second and third, Raburn struck out on a wicked curveball. Cabrera sent a bouncer back to the mound and Santana, going on contact, was caught between third and home and tagged out in a rundown.
With Brantley on third, Murphy ended the inning by grounding out to second.
Yan Gomes started the fifth with bloop single. Morgan advanced him on a sacrifice bunt, but Swisher took a called third strike on a curveball from Gray and Kipnis bounced out to first.
The A’s couldn’t do much against Masterson. He retired 15 of the first 17 batters he faced.
Jaso doubled with two out in the second, but Josh Reddick flied out to left. He was the only Oakland runner to reach second base.
In the sixth, Masterson was Eric Sogard to start the inning. Coco Crisp advanced Sogard with a bunt and Josh Donaldson singled with Sogard stopping at third. Masterson retired Jed Lowrie on a liner back to the mound that he knocked down before throwing to firat. The inning ended when Brandon Moss flied out center.