SEATTLE -- Yonder Alonso has not felt like the new guy for awhile now, but that feeling of belonging really cemented on Saturday at Safeco Field. Not only did Alonso launch his first home run in an Indians uniform, but he did it in grand fashion.In a 6-5 victory over
SEATTLE -- Yonder Alonso has not felt like the new guy for awhile now, but that feeling of belonging really cemented on Saturday at Safeco Field. Not only did Alonso launch his first home run in an Indians uniform, but he did it in grand fashion.
In a 6-5 victory over the Mariners, Alonso delivered the first blow, belting a James Paxton fastball into the right-field seats for a first-inning grand slam, the first in the Major Leagues this season. The first baseman wants to prove that last year's power displays were no fluke, but more than anything, he wants to feel at home in Cleveland's lineup.
"Doing something for the team," Alonso said, "I think it makes you settled a little bit. So, that's nice."
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
Indians manager Terry Francona has said on numerous occasions that new additions only feel new for "about 15 minutes" when they step into Cleveland's clubhouse. Alonso, who signed a two-year contract worth $16 million with the Indians during the offseason, echoed that sentiment throughout his first spring with the Tribe.
Last year, Alonso enjoyed a breakout campaign by hitting .266 with a career-high 28 home runs, .501 slugging percentage and .866 OPS. He had never hit more than nine homers in a season previously. This spring, Alonso picked up where he left off, leading the Indians with seven home runs in Cactus League play.
For Saturday's game, Francona dropped Alonso to sixth in the lineup with Paxton on the mound. The left-handed-hitting first baseman posted a .181 average and .679 OPS off lefties last season, but he had no issues in the Indians' first win of 2018. Against Paxton, Alonso drew a pair of walks after connecting for the towering home run.
Jason Kipnis ignited the early rally with a double into right-center off Paxton, who later issued consecutive two-out walks to Edwin Encarnacion and Rajai Davis. Davis, in particular, gave Paxton fits within a nine-pitch at-bat that included five foul balls. That set the stage for Alonso to do damage on a 1-0 four-seamer over the heart of the plate, giving the Indians a 4-0 lead.
The Mariners fans in attendance -- who cheered for Alonso during his time with Seattle down the stretch last season -- let out a collective groan as the ball dropped into the right-field seats.
"Raj had what felt like a 20-pitch at-bat -- just kept fouling off pitches," Alonso said. "The guys before him just had really good at-bats. Right away, a stressful inning for their guy, Paxton. No question, I think it was all brought because of the guys in front of me."
Alonso's shot, combined with a two-run blast from Yan Gomes in the fourth inning, helped overcome an inconsistent outing from Tribe right-hander Carlos Carrasco. Seattle struck for five runs -- three via home runs from Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz -- off Carrasco over his 5 2/3 innings. Cleveland's bullpen held the Mariners in check from there.
Alonso has a tough act to follow, given the high level of production Carlos Santana offered for so many years in Cleveland before signing with the Phillies this offseason. On Saturday, the Indians' new first baseman took a big step forward in that regard.
"When the season starts," Gomes said, "I think everybody wants to make their presence [felt], and I think he did it today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
First test for 'pen: The Indians' relief corps, which is adjusting to life after Bryan Shaw (now with the Rockies), inherited a 6-5 lead when Carrasco exited the game in the sixth. Zach McAllister is in line for more high-leverage looks with Shaw gone, and the big right-hander answered the bell with an inning of work to bridge the game to Andrew Miller. Cleveland's relief ace sidestepped a few flared hits over 1 1/3 shutout innings, and closer Cody Allen finished the game for his first save of the season.
"Everyone down there," McAllister said, " is ready to take the ball whenever their name is called regardless of the situation or the role. We're ready."
Yan gone: After the Mariners pulled within one run of the Indians -- thanks to Haniger's homer in the second and four straight singles in the third -- Gomes answered in a big way. In the fourth inning, the Cleveland catcher crushed a 2-2 offering from Paxton to dead center field for a two-run home run. That shot, which had a 107.5-mph exit velocity according to Statcast™, put the Indians up, 6-3.
Cruz's exit: The Mariners' big designated hitter isn't running too well due to a sore right quad, and he was taken out of the game in the eighth inning after twisting his right ankle. In the eighth, Guillermo Heredia pinch-hit for Cruz after Robinson Cano led off with a bloop double off Miller. The Indians' lefty induced a flyout from Heredia and escaped harm with two strikeouts.
"What he's been able to do is tremendous. He finds another button to push like a video game when he gets guys in scoring position or on base. It just turns into filthy-filthy slider instead of nasty. He's fun to watch." -- McAllister, on Miller
"I'll yell you, the first slider he threw to Ichiro, I was like, 'Oh man. OK, we're out of the woods. We're out of Arizona now.' That thing took a turn. I was like, 'OK, I have to remember how this slider really turns.'" --Gomes, on Miller
ICHIRO GOES ABOVE AND BEYOND
Ichiro Suzuki patrolled right field for most of his previous 11 1/2 seasons in Seattle, winning 10 Gold Glove Awards at that position. But Ichiro proved he can play left field pretty well, even at age 44, as he went up over the wall to rob Jose Ramirez of a home run in the third inning with a perfectly timed leap. Ichiro also got his first hit for the Mariners since July 21, 2012, with an infield single in the third and added a base hit off Miller in the seventh in a 2-for-4 day.
Trevor Bauer enjoyed a career year in 2017 (17-9, 4.19 ERA, 196 strikeouts, 176 1/3 innings), but the right-hander hardly was complacent over the winter. He focused on developing a new slider, which he will debut on Sunday, when the Indians take on the Mariners in a 4:10 p.m. ET rubber game at Safeco Field.
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Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.