OAKLAND (AP) — Jim Johnson got pulled in the ninth inning with a sellout crowd booing, hardly the kind of Oakland debut the reigning AL saves leader had hoped for Monday.
Johnson (0-1) surrendered a go-ahead sacrifice fly to Nyjer Morgan and Nick Swisher’s RBI single as the Cleveland Indians sent the Athletics to their major league-record 10th straight opening loss with a 2-0 victory.
“I would have booed me, too. I (stunk) today, I’ll admit it,” Johnson said. “That’s fine. I deserved it. I expect that. The next time they’re probably going to be cheering.”
In the sixth, crew chief Mike Winters became the first umpire to initiate a review under the expanded replay system, making the call after a collision at home plate.
Winters requested the review on a close play that kept Cleveland from breaking a scoreless tie. The call was confirmed in 59 seconds.
“Basically with the new rule I just wanted to confirm what I saw that the catcher did not block the plate unnecessarily,” Winters said. “He was in fair territory, he gave the runner plenty of plate to go to. I just wanted to be sure.”
Winters wanted to see if A’s catcher John Jaso had illegally blocked the plate under baseball’s new rule regarding home plate collisions. With Michael Brantley on third and one out, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a comebacker that ricocheted off pitcher Sonny Gray’s foot.
Gray quickly retrieved the ball and fired home to Jaso, who tagged a sliding Brantley. Cleveland manager Terry Francona came out to discuss the play.
Francona said, “I appreciated him checking.”
“Bob (Melvin) went over all the scenarios with the replay with the team so I knew exactly what was going on,” Gray said. “I thought it was a clean, fair play.”
Oakland’s Josh Donaldson hit a single off the top of the wall near the 400-foot sign in center in the eighth, but Daric Barton held up at second waiting to tag in case the ball was caught, and the A’s failed to score the go-ahead run.
Cody Allen (1-0) then struck out Jed Lowrie and retired Brandon Moss on a grounder to first.
In the ninth, Melvin knew he had to remove Johnson in that situation.
“He walks the first guy. He’s always the type of guy who’s one pitch away from getting a double-play ball, but it just didn’t happen for him today,” Melvin said. “It just wasn’t his day.”
Justin Masterson, in his third straight opening day outing, and Gray dueled in a scoreless games before the bullpens took over to decide it. Masterson allowed three hits, struck out four and walked one in seven scoreless innings, lowering his ERA on opening day to 0.86.
The game began just four minutes behind schedule under blue skies, a best-case scenario considering the downpour a couple of hours earlier.
Gray walked the first two batters of the game but quickly settled to throw six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and three walks in a 105-pitch opener.
The right-hander, who dueled with Detroit ace Justin Verlander in Game 2 of last fall’s division series, earned the start after Jarrod Parker was lost to season-ending Tommy John surgery.
The opening-day skid is not discussed.
“You don’t talk about it,” Gray said. “You hear it when it’s going around but I don’t think that really factored into the game at all.”
Yan Gomes went 1 for 3 only hours after finalizing a new $23 million, six-year contract with the Indians. He was plunked in the left elbow in the ninth. John Axford finished for Cleveland, striking out Nick Punto to end it with runners on first and second.
A couple dozen grounds crew workers carried large brooms to sweep water off the tarp all afternoon. The Indians briefly came out to right field to go through some warmups during a break in the rain some three hours before first pitch.
The two-time reigning AL West champion A’s took the field 90 minutes before first pitch under the lights when the rain finally slowed — some even in short sleeves. It started pouring again shortly after the game ended.
NOTES: Gray became the second starter in Oakland history to allow no runs on opening day, joining Tim Hudson in 2003. Gray also was the ninth different A’s opening day starter in nine years. ... Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson threw out the ceremonial first pitch.