CLEVELAND -- The Indians unfurled an oversized American flag on Tuesday afternoon, welcoming the beginning of a new season and celebrating an Opening Day game that was two days in the making. The optimism flowing was enough to make it feel like things might be different this year for the Tribe.
After Corey Kluber fired the first pitch of Cleveland's 2016 campaign, however, a familiar script unfolded in a season-opening 6-2 loss to the Red Sox at Progressive Field. The Tribe's bats went as cold as the temperature, struggling to mount much against ace David Price and sending Kluber to a loss that was reminiscent of so many last year.
One day into the season, the Indians are not worried.
"We'll be fine. We'll be fine," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor repeated. "We have 161 games left. We'll be fine."
Fighting through what will go down as the coldest season-opening game on record for the Indians -- the first-pitch temperature of 34 degrees knocked the 1907 opener (36 degrees) into second place -- the Tribe offense managed only two runs on five hits against Price.
Those two factors should be kept in mind when dissecting Kluber's first encounter with low run support. First of all, Price is a past American League Cy Young Award recipient and more than capable of baffling any lineup, no matter the elements. Second, the cold weather makes it tough for any hitter. It was not entirely the same as 2015, when Kluber's 9-16 record was partially the result of continuously low support.
"It was just cold. The ball hurts when it hits the bat," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "You start getting stiff out there on defense. You can't feel your fingers when you throw the ball, and your arm tightens up. You don't have any blood moving when you do it. But both teams are doing it. Both teams are going through it.
"It's part of the game -- part of baseball. If you want to play late in October, it's going to be cold, too."
Boston did not seem to have too much of a problem, pounding out four runs on nine hits in Kluber's 5 1/3 innings. Two runs came via a home run by Mookie Betts in the third inning. Another came via a wild pitch in the sixth, when a breaking pitch dropped well ahead of home plate and skipped away from catcher Yan Gomes.
Kluber was not about to use the weather as any kind of explanation for his inability to locate pitches.
"It was cold out there, but I don't want to say that I didn't execute pitches because of it," Kluber said. "There are other things that go on, too, besides just the weather, that are why you didn't make a good pitch."
Offensively, there were encouraging developments within the Tribe's lone rally in the fourth inning.
After Lindor led off with a base hit, veteran Mike Napoli engaged in an 11-pitch battle that helped wear Price down momentarily. Carlos Santana followed with a base hit and Gomes did the same. On Gomes' chopper up the middle, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia dove and knocked the ball into shallow center with his glove. Lindor scored from second, Santana hustled to third, and that set up a sacrifice fly by Marlon Byrd.
"It was a good inning," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We certainly need to do more than a good inning, but we strung together real good at-bats and worked hard for them. We ran the bases aggressively and intelligently and gave ourselves a chance, where a flyout scores a run instead of just being an out."
Lindor said that is the brand of baseball the Indians' offense needs to display.
"We have to do the little things," he said. "I don't think we have the talent to go out there and just show up and win. I think we're going to have to compete day in and day out. We've got the talent to win."
"Obviously, we didn't hit the way we wanted today," Kipnis said. "It's Day 1, so that's all you guys have to talk about and all we have to look at. We're going to get better."