Arlington, TX (92.3 The Fan) – After waiting 80 games to appear in a game in 2016 due to a PED suspension, Abraham Almonte seemed almost destined to deliver a crucial at-bat after his first three trips to the plate showed his patient approach.
Almonte ran up full counts in each of his three appearances, though the latter of the three ended in the right fielder swinging and missing at a ball near his shoelaces. The ball ricocheted away from catcher Jonathan Lucroy, scoring Yandy Diaz. Almonte wound up safe at first anyway.
The 27-year old drove in the game-winning run on a 2-1 changeup that he drove to center field, scoring Tyler Naquin, the only ball Almonte put in play.
The only two strikes Almonte saw were on sliders, one called and one swinging. He saw nine sliders, the most of any pitch.
Many thought Yandy Diaz locked down his first major league hit in his second at-bat, when he smacked a hard liner to shortstop that was played off of Elvis Andrus’ glove.
The play was ruled an error on Andrus despite a 107.7 mph exit velocity, with the shortstop never having a great handle on the ball at all.
Diaz responded by ripping a double into right field off of Yu Darvish in the seventh inning that carried an exit velocity of 101.4 mph.
The third baseman finished his debut 1-4, grounding out in his final at-bat before being lifted for a defensive substitution of Michael Martinez.
Up, up and away
Corey Kluber threw 58 sinkers in his season debut, the pitch that has been the driving force behind the Indians ace’s success to this point in his career. He got 17 called strikes from the pitch and a swinging strike, with 9 sinkers put in play.
The righty did allow three extra-base hits on sinkers, all of which missed in the same spot of the plate. Both Elvis Andrus (R) and Nomar Mazara (L) doubled on sinkers that wound up belt-high, over the plate across Kluber’s body.
Left-handed Rougned Odor’s second home run came on a pitch that was slightly lower and more away than Mazara’s double.
Those were not the only sinkers in the same area of the strike zone that were hit hard. Andrus and Mike Napoli (R) each hit lineouts with 90+ mph exit velocities on sinkers high in the zone. Lucroy (R) pulled the same pitch on a 79.8 mph lineout to Michael Brantley in Left.
Kluber’s sinker was not the only pitch that was hit hard. Carlos Gomez’s first inning home run was on a slider over the heart of the plate, while Odor’s first came on a four-seamer, middle-in in the second.
The former Cy Young winner settled in, retiring 10 consecutive batters from the third to the sixth innings.