SEATTLE -- As Jason Donald spoke, the Indians shortstop repeatedly ran his tongue behind his lower lip. The feeling was starting to return and he knew that his mouth would likely be fattened up a little by morning after being hit by a sharp ground ball in the ninth inning on Tuesday night.
A swollen lip is something Donald can live with, especially since the play that dazed him momentarily did not derail Cleveland from claiming a 9-8 comeback win over the Mariners in the opener of this three-game set at Safeco Field. In a way, it was a fitting summation of the evening's events for the road-happy Tribe.
Cleveland took it on the chin, but still came away with a victory.
"I was out of it for a second," Donald said. "I was just trying to figure out what happened. I was trying to piece everything together."
Donald might as well have been referring to his team as a whole.
Four innings into Tuesday's affair, Cleveland was faced with an 8-1 deficit after a disastrous outing from sinkerballer Justin Masterson. After two clean frames, Masterson's control abandoned him and Seattle came through with eight runs in a span of 14 batters. The righty gave up a two-run homer to John Jaso in the third, surrendered a six spot in the fourth and exited after only 3 2/3 innings.
This early in a season, with a gap that large so early in a ballgame, many teams might slip into cruise control and roll over for the remainder of the outs. The Indians, who made mincemeat of Kansas City's pitching in a three-game sweep over the weekend, were not ready to throw in the towel on this particular night.
Of course, given the volume of dramatic rallies a year ago, a comeback hardly seemed surprising.
"I think it was pretty incredible when [Seattle] scored all the runs," said Masterson, who was charged with eight runs on seven hits with four walks and a hit batsmen. "Then I was like, 'We're at least going to get six or seven.' I mean, I didn't necessarily think in that next inning."
In the top of the fifth, the Indians collected five hits off Mariners starter Kevin Millwood and took advantage of a fielding blunder by shortstop Brendan Ryan. The result was six runs, including three on a home run from Carlos Santana that shaved Seattle's lead to 8-7.
Donald -- filling in for shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who was placed on the bereavement list earlier in the day -- added a sacrifice fly off reliever Erasmo Ramirez to wrap up the Tribe's seven-run outpouring, pulling the game into an 8-8 tie in the process.
"These guys are not going to quit," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "They know they're capable of doing it. They did it last year a bunch of times. I thought it was great. I was hoping to come back two at a time, but they went out there and just put a seven spot up. It was just wonderful."
The Indians extended a franchise record by scoring at least eight runs in their fourth consecutive road game to open a season. Santana's home run -- his third shot of the season -- also gave Cleveland at least one long ball in each of its first nine games out of the gates, matching the second-longest streak of that kind for the team dating back to 1918.
Donald was at the center of everything.
In the seventh inning, with runners on first and second base and two outs in the books, the Mariners turned to right-handed reliever Tom Wilhelmsen to face Donald. The shortstop sliced a 1-0 breaking ball down the right-field line for a single that scored Travis Hafner, pushing the Tribe to a 9-8 advantage.
"I didn't hit it all that hard," Donald said, "but I hit it in the right spot."
Following Masterson's exit, Cleveland relievers Nick Hagadone, Rafael Perez, Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez combined for 5 1/3 shutout frames. It was Donald's go-ahead single, however, that set the stage for Perez to notch his third save of the season.
An errant grounder nearly spoiled everything.
With one out and a runner on first base in the ninth inning, Jesus Montero sent a hard ground ball up the middle for a would-be game-ending double play. Donald sprinted up the middle, where the ball took an unusual bounce off the dirt, striking him in the mouth before rolling into center field.
"Bad hop is an understatement," Donald said. "That thing, I just saw it at the last second kick up. There was nothing I could do. I didn't put a glove on that thing -- nothing. It was all face pretty much. Hopefully my girlfriend still wants to date me after getting smoked in the mouth like that."
As Donald remained on the ground, grabbing at his jaw and wincing in pain, he was tended to by the Indians medical staff. Donald did not want to come out of the game and Cleveland obliged after making sure he passed a series of tests.
"I said to give me a second and let me kind of regroup," Donald said. "We don't really have anybody else to play short. ... So I just had to kind of bulldog it and get those last two outs."
Perez later walked Ryan to load the bases with two outs, but the closer escaped further damage by inducing an inning-ending flyout to right field from Jaso.
The Indians left with a win. Donald left with a sore lip.
"I'll say I took on 10 guys," he quipped. "I'll make it sound better than I took a ball off my face."