When: 7:05 PM ET, Monday, April 3, 2017
Where: Globe Life Park in Arlington, Arlington, Texas
The Cleveland Indians begin their quest to return to the World Series when they open the 2017 season Monday against the host Texas Rangers, one of their chief competitors in the American League. The Indians coughed up a three games-to-one lead in the 2016 Fall Classic against the Chicago Cubs and have added to a batting order that produced their first pennant since 1997.
Cleveland opens 2017 with second baseman Jason Kipnis and outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall on the disabled list due to shoulder injuries, but slugger Edwin Encarnacion was signed as a free agent and it could have former All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley back Monday after he missed most of last season due to a shoulder injury. “He continues to trend in the right direction,” Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters of Brantley, “and I think that’s really good enough.” The Rangers add Mike Napoli to their lineup after the first baseman/designated hitter recorded career highs of 34 homers and 101 RBIs with Cleveland last season while Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez – who each joined the team late in 2016 – also key the offense. Yu Darvish gets the start for Texas and should be primed for a big season, teaming with Cole Hamels for one of the top 1-2 punches in the majors, and 2014 Cy Young winner Corey Kluber goes for the Indians.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, ESPN, SportsTime Ohio (Cleveland), FSN Southwest (Texas)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Corey Kluber (2016: 18-9, 3.14 ERA) vs. Rangers RH Yu Darvish (2016: 7-5, 3.41)
Kluber looks to put together another Cy Young Award-worthy season after matching his career high in wins last season to lead the team. The 30-year-old Alabama native, who posted a 9-1 record after the All-Star break last year, has completed at least 215 innings and struck out at least 227 in three straight seasons, and he limited opponents to a .210 batting average on the road in 2016. Adrian Beltre is 4-for-10 with a homer versus Kluber, who is 2-1 with a 3.67 ERA in four career games against Texas.
Darvish returned from Tommy John surgery last season to strike out 132 in 100 1/3 innings and limit opponents to a .214 batting average despite an average record. The 30-year-old from Japan makes his first Opening Day start after sporting a 2.84 ERA in 12 2/3 innings during the spring and is 46-30 in 100 major league games – averaging more than six innings. Encarnacion is 5-for-16 with two homers career against Darvish, who did not face the Indians last year but is 1-2 with a 3.12 ERA against them overall.
1. Beltre (calf), who led the Rangers with 104 RBIs and belted 32 homers last season, will open the season on the disabled list.
2. Cleveland INF Jose Ramirez will move to 2B in place of Kipnis and rookie 3B Yandy Diaz is expected to get the start Monday.
3. Texas 2B Rougned Odor, who led the team with 33 homers last season, signed a six-year contract extension on Thursday.
PREDICTION: Indians 5, Rangers 3