CLEVELAND — Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning, two batters after Yan Gomes connected for a solo shot, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 7-2 home-opening win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
Swisher’s homer off Mike Pelfrey (0-1) allowed the Indians to cap a day of pomp and pageantry as they celebrated Progressive Field’s 20th anniversary. Before the sixth, the Indians had been shut out by Pelfrey and were in danger of disappointing a sellout crowd that stuck around following a 2-hour, 13-minute rain delay and plummeting temperatures.
Indians reliever Josh Outman (1-0) recorded two outs after coming in for Danny Salazar in the sixth and got the win.
Swisher added an RBI double and Michael Brantley hit a two-run single in Cleveland’s four-run seventh that broke it open.
Chris Colabello homered for the Twins.
Flat and hitless through four innings, the Indians woke up in the sixth when they finally figured out Pelfrey.
Gomes got things started with his leadoff homer, a lined shot into the center-field bullpen to trim Minnesota’s lead to 2-1. Lonnie Chisenhall walked and Nyjer Morgan sacrificed. Up came Swisher, who fell behind 0-1 before belting his homer, a towering fly pushed deeper into the right-field seats by strong winds.
Swisher posed to watch the ball’s flight and then punctuated the homer by flipping his bat as he headed down the first-base line. After crossing home plate, the Ohio native saluted Cleveland’s crowd by raising his arms and making an “O” and then “H” an “I” and “O.”
Before the game, Swisher complimented Cleveland’s front office for signing All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis to a six-year, $52.5 million contract hours before the opener.
“Bro, I think it’s awesome, so amazing,” he said. “I feel that we’re starting to create an identity of who we are.”
That process began last season, when the Indians won their last 10 games to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007. They lost the wild-card game to Tampa Bay, but Cleveland entered this season with expectations to go even further this October.
Pelfrey coasted through Cleveland’s lineup the first time, and he retired Cleveland’s first 12 hitters before Carlos Santana opened the fifth with a double.
The Twins wasted no time once the game began, scoring two runs in the first off Salazar on Josh Willingham’s sacrifice fly and Colabello’s wind-blown homer to right-center.
The free-swinging Colabello, who played seven years in the independent Canadian-American Association before signing with the Twins in 2012, was the International League’s MVP with Triple-A Rochester last season. He batted just .194 but hit seven homers in 55 games with the Twins.
NOTES: The threat of impending thunderstorms delayed the start. It was a strange sight: the ballpark bathed in sunshine with the tarp covering the infield. But the precautions were needed as heavy rain arrived about an hour after the scheduled first pitch. … Kipnis’ signing means 16 of the 25 players on the Indians’ roster are signed through at least 2016. … Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has a special fondness for Progressive Field, known as Jacobs Field for most of its history. “I love this place,” he said. “It’s a beautiful atmosphere with the city in the background and the dude banging on the drum out there. Not too many ballparks have fans sitting right next to your dugout in a glassed-in area offering you a beer.” … Former Indians manager Mike Hargrove threw out the ceremonial first pitch, skipping it to first-base coach Sandy Alomar, who played for Hargrove.