CLEVELAND — Home won’t get any sweeter for the Indians than it will today at Progressive Field.
Counting a seven-week spring-training stint in Arizona and two season-opening series on the road, the defending American League champions haven’t seen Cleveland since mid-February.
That changes today at 4:10 p.m. when the Indians greet Central Division rival Chicago in the home opener at Progressive Field.
“I know it’s really early in the year but I think we’ve been away from our home for a really long time,” said catcher Yan Gomes, whose team began the season with a promising sweep at Texas before being swept in a disappointing interleague series at Arizona. “I think we’ll just go back home (Monday) and get the Central (Division) going (today) and go play some ballgames.
“I think it’s kind of a weird situation to be honest with you. You open up the season sweeping and then getting swept. We’ve just gotta go home and refresh ourselves and get it going again.”
Offense was prevalent for Cleveland in the season-opening series at Texas, with the Indians scoring 21 times in three games against the projected AL contender, but it ran out in Arizona, where they plated only seven runs in another three-game set.
It was the Diamondbacks, a team not expected to challenge in the NL West, who roughed up Cleveland’s top-shelf pitching staff, scoring 21 times to enhance their major league-leading run total to 48 through Sunday.
Breaking even in their first two series did nothing to dampen expectations for the Indians, who took the Cubs to extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series last year and are an AL favorite again after adding elite slugger Edwin Encarnacion in the offseason.
At 3-3, it’s almost as if they are opening the season today at home, anyway.
“We happened to win three in Texas and we lost three in (Arizona). That’s about all it says, I think,” said Cleveland ace Corey Kluber (0-1, 5.25 ERA), who allowed two earned runs on six hits over six innings of the series finale against the Diamondbacks on Sunday.
Kluber won’t pitch in the series against Chicago, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be good to be back in front of Cleveland fans for the first time this year.
“In a way it almost felt like we never left Arizona (from spring training),” Kluber said. “It will be nice to get back to Cleveland.”
A sellout crowd is expected today, which would account for the 24th straight home opener sellout at Jacobs/Progressive Field — each year the park has been in existence.
Kluber dealt with back tightness during his second start of the season Sunday, but the right-hander said it had nothing to do with swinging a bat in an interleague series so shortly into the year.
“It was tight most of the day, but it wasn’t anything that was alarming,” Kluber said. “I felt it from the beginning of the game so, I don’t think it was anything necessarily from swinging.”
- Cleveland is 59-57 all-time in home openers — 11-12 at Jacobs/Progressive Field — but has lost six of the last seven.
- The Indians will receive their AL championship rings in a ceremony prior to the first pitch. They will also raise their AL title flag and banner.
- A legendary trio in Cleveland sports history — Jim Brown (Browns), Jim Thome (Indians) and Austin Carr (Cavaliers) — will throw ceremonial first pitches.