Reynolds' homer in 11th lifts Tribe
Ubaldo goes six solid, allowing one run with six strikeouts
TORONTO -- The Indians are willing to live with bouts of famine, given the kind of feast Mark Reynolds can provide when his bat greets a baseball.
On Wednesday, Reynolds certainly showed his flaws, but he ultimately dropped a substantial amount of jaws with a mammoth home run that sent Cleveland to 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays in 11 innings at Rogers Centre.
His leadoff blast in the final frame off Sergio Santos -- whether measured by feet or meters -- provided a glimpse into the kind of power he can provide.
"That's what he has," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's going to miss sometimes, but when he does [connect], it's a game-changer. It was tonight."
Reynolds' solo home run overcame a ninth-inning letdown for Indians closer Chris Perez, who blew a save chance by yielding a game-tying shot to slugger Jose Bautista. Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez turned in a strong six-inning outing, and the rest of Cleveland's relief corps did their part, giving the Indians their first 2-0 start to a season since 2008.
It has been a stellar start for an Indians team that navigated through the spring fueled by a mix of enthusiasm and optimism.
That is often the case for teams that undergo dramatic offseason chances. Cleveland brought in Francona, and then a wave of players via free agency and trades. Reynolds, who signed a one-year contract with the Tribe in December, likes to joke that the rest of the free agents followed him to Cleveland.
All kidding aside, Reynolds has enjoyed being a part of the Tribe's transformation.
"We came into camp with a lot of optimism," Reynolds said. "Obviously, every team has optimism in Spring Training. Everybody is 0-0 and everybody has a chance. It's only two games, but it feels good to be 2-0, rather than 0-2. At the same time, we've got to keep it in perspective. We've got 160 games to go and a lot can happen."
The Indians initially signed Reynolds -- one of the game's premiere right-handed sluggers -- to be their first baseman. Nick Swisher was in the original plans as the team's right fielder, but he was happy to move to first when Cleveland signed outfielder Michael Bourn. The position shuffle pushed Reynolds to the regular designated hitter duties.
More important than where Reynolds plays is how he hits.
In the previous five seasons, Reynolds has led baseball in strikeouts, but he has also ranked fourth in the Majors in home runs (164) by a right-handed hitter. Only Albert Pujols (193), Miguel Cabrera (183) and Ryan Braun (168) have launched more homers in that span. Last season, the Indians ranked last in baseball with only 38 home runs from their right-handed batters.
It goes without saying that Reynolds was a welcomed addition.
"Oh, my goodness, yeah. It's fun to see that," said reliever Joe Smith, who picked up his first career save with a clean 11th inning on Wednesday. "We've been missing that the last couple years -- guys that can really hit the long ball at any time. This year, with the guys that we've acquired, it can come from anybody at any time."
The Indians used some small ball to collect their first two runs against Toronto.
In the third inning against Blue Jays righty Brandon Morrow, who allowed one run and struck out eight over six frames, Michael Brantley used one of his four singles on the night to plate Bourn. Brantley was in the thick of things again in the eighth inning, when he scored from first base thanks to a throwing error by Toronto third baseman Maicer Izturis on a would-be double play.
Jimenez had already exited the game following six solid innings, during which he scattered three hits, struck out six and allowed just one run. The right-hander's lone blemish was a solo home run off the bat of Izturis in the third.
"I thought he was outstanding," Francona said. "His secondary stuff, his direction to the plate, down, everything. He left the ball over the plate to Izturis. Other than that, his offspeed -- his changeup and breaking ball, especially his changeup -- was really good."
Armed with a 2-1 advantage in the ninth, Perez emerged from the bullpen looking for his second save in as many games. With one out, the All-Star closer got Bautista to chase a slider for a first-pitch strike, but the closer then opted to turn to his fastball.
"It was bad pitch selection," Perez admitted.
Bautista did was the Blue Jays pay him to do. He hit a scorching line drive over the left-field wall for a game-tying home run.
"I know it was a big hit in the moment," Bautista said, "but I would have rather had the win."
The Indians had other ideas.
"We were talking about that on the bench: 'We've got to pick him up,'" said Reynolds, referring to Perez. "He's out there doing his thing and he gave up a homer to one of the best home run hitters in the league. It happens."
Reynolds was 0-for-4 -- with two strikeouts and a double-play groundout -- heading into his at-bat in the 11th inning. Facing Santos, Reynolds waited for a fastball and received one on a 1-2 count. The Tribe's DH swung, and sent the ball sailing deep over left-center field, where it crashed into the base of the restaurant situated in the stadium's second deck.
Jimenez watched from the dugout.
"I enjoyed that one," he said. "That was a bomb."
Perez enjoyed it, too.
"If you're going to blow a save," Perez said, "that's the one to do -- when the team comes back and picks you up. That was a big hit for us. He crushed it."
Reynolds was simply glad to have his first hit as a member of the Indians.
"I didn't care if it was a go-ahead homer or not," he said with a laugh. "I was going to first base and I was like, 'Finally, I got my first hit. I can relax and play."