Making history on Day 1
Apparently the Blue Jays and Indians were so excited for the start of the regular season they decided to more or less play two games on Opening Day for the 2012 season. The more than five-hour marathon lasted sixteen innings and became the longest Opening Day game in Major League Baseball history. It wasn’t until J.P. Arencibia hit the go-ahead home run in the 16th inning and Sergio Santos closed things out in the bottom half of the inning that an outcome was finally decided.
It really was a tale of two games. The first one involved the Blue Jays hitters getting absolutely dominated courtesy of a masterful pitching performance by Indians ace Justin Masterson. Jose Bautista’s solo home run in the fourth and a double by Adam Lind were the only marks against Masterson who kept Toronto’s hitters off balance for eight innings en route to a 10-strikeout performance. Things completely shifted gears when Indians closer Chris Perez entered the game and proceeded to surrender a three-run lead in no time flat and force extra innings.
You can read all about last night’s game on the main site but as you can imagine with a game that goes on for 16 innings there was plenty that couldn’t fit into the recap. Here are a few tidbits from last night followed by lots of leftovers. Apologies for the late post but after spending 11 hours at the ballpark I needed a little time to recover. I think everyone is a little thankful — players and journalists included — that Friday was a scheduled offday for both clubs.
- Jose Bautista proved yet again that he isn’t adverse to helping the Blue Jays in the field any way possible. Bautista moved from right field to first base when Adam Lind was lifted for a pinch runner in the ninth inning. It was the 10th time that Bautista has appeared at first base for the Blue Jays and his first game there since 2010.
- Omar Vizquel also made a rare appearance at first base when he entered the game in the 12th inning. Vizquel technically came into the game as a left fielder as Toronto subbed out Eric Thames to go with five infielders in order to get an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded to keep the game tied. Vizquel came back out in the 13th at first base, which allowed Bautista to return to right field, and marked just the second time in Vizquel’s career that he played first.
- Rajai Davis was responsible for the game’s biggest brainfreeze when he attempted to bunt runners over from first and second in extra innings. Davis popped the bunt up towards third base and then inexplicably stood in the batter’s box and watched the play unfold. Cleveland’s Jack Hannahan wisely let the ball drop and easily turned a 5-4-3 doubleplay to essentially put an end to Toronto’s rally. Davis received a lot of criticism — and rightly so — from comments on the site and people on Twitter and while I’m sure John Farrell was beside himself in the dugout after the game he appeared to be understanding. Nobody can question Davis’ effort on the field and even though it’s a mistake that cannot be made at the Major League level this isn’t about a highly paid player being lazy. Davis is a veteran player who likely got caught up in not being able to get the bunt down and had a temporary brain cramp. It’s not the way he normally plays the game and I doubt it’s something we ever see again but the Blue Jays got away with one there.
- The Blue Jays decision to go with five infielders during the 12th inning with the bases loaded was a scenario they practiced quite a bit during Spring Training. In many ways, it’s a last resort type of strategy but it paid off against Cleveland as Perez got the inning-ending double play and I bet it’s not the last time we see Farrell make that move.
- I really liked what I saw from Kelly Johnson hitting out of the two-hole in front of Bautista. Johnson couldn’t get anything going against Masterson but when Cleveland’s bullpen came into the game he proceeded to reach base four consecutive times. It’s the ability to get on base that’s crucial when batting in the No. 2 spot and Johnson has shown a keen ability to do that during his Major League career. I think he’s in line for a big year.
- Sergio Santos was supposed to come out of the Blue Jays bullpen to start the 16th inning last night but a miscommunication in Toronto’s dugout momentarily derailed that plan. Santos about to leave Toronto’s ‘pen when Luis Perez darted out of the Blue Jays bullpen with the belief that he was still pitching. Perez crossed the chalk and once that happens he is required to face at least one batter. It’s a new rule in Major League Baseball that was designed to stop teams from buying extra time for their relievers to get ready and further delaying the game. So, Perez stayed in to face one batter before Santos was allowed to enter the game.
- As a result of that move, Santos did not earn his first save in a Blue Jays uniform. In order to record the save, Santos would have needed to pitch a full inning or come into the game with the tying run on the on-deck circle. Since he began pitching with one out, nobody on and a three-run lead that scenario didn’t apply. He’ll have to wait at least one more day for another opportunity.
Now onto last night’s leftovers…
“The bullpen did an outstanding job, 11 shutout innings, hopefully we’re not going to look at that too often, and if tonight is any kind of insight into this season, strap in, we’re in for a long ride.”
On J.P. thinking he was supposed to bunt in the 16th when he really wasn’t…
“In that situation against that type of pitcher, right-handers have had good success against Ascencio and we certainly didn’t want to take the bat out of J.P.’s hands. He saw a sign that wasn’t there and fortunately he fouled it off, and he gets the next pitch in the middle of the plate and does some damage with it.”
On Santos in the 16th….
“With the change in rule, as soon as that pitcher crosses the line that’s pitched the previous inning, he has to face a hitter so we tried and made sure that we gave Serge all the time he needed to get loose, Luis kind of bolted from the dugout, so it ended up working OK.”
“I know it’s Day 1, and we’ve seen an awful lot in the first game, but the one characteristic we had last year was a relentless attitude and a relentless approach, and came back a number of times and today was another example. I think that just speaks to the character of this group.
On JP defence…
“He’s made such strides from a year ago. It’s remarkable how far he’s come from this time a year ago. He throws out Choo from his knees, he blocked numerous two-strike pitches in the dirt. I know it’s Day 1, this is a game that makes you awful proud with the way guys continued to battle and grind things out for 16 innings.”
“On Day 1, extremely difficult. We’ve had guys go nine innings one time and suddenly we’re asking them to go 16 in a five-hour game out of the chute. We’re dealing with guys who were cramping up during the game, even though it’s not hot and sweaty it’s still cold, they’ve been on their feet for five straight hours. It’s a testament to their will.”
“Hannahan did a great job. He pops a ball up and he did exactly what you instruct every infielder to do, get a read on it, give the impression you’re going to catch it, he let it drop, Rajai read his positioning, thought he was going to catch it, and kind of backed off instead of running it out.”
“It’s a thing we had worked on in spring training. We’re in kind of a desperate situation right there and we’re looking for something on the ground, we had played the infield in trying to cut down the run earlier, but when we got in the situation with that fifth infielder being right at the bag, we felt like we could then look to turn two in the middle of the infield rather than try to cut down the speed at first base. It worked, you kind of roll the dice and it turned up in our favour.”
“Long game? Yeah, but it was a fun game because there were so many different things inside it, whether it was Rajai scoring from first on a ball off the wall, to a dramatic three-run homer, there were a lot of good things.”
“I just got a little off my game there in the second inning and everything started going up, the ball started rising. I wasn’t able to make the adjustment back quick and I ended up with a lot of pitches that inning, but you know it happens and it’s over with. I’m glad we came back, we grinded it out. We wanted to make history tonight, you guys didn’t know that, huh?”
J.P. Opening Day….
“This is the thing about this team. He had some rough at-bats earlier … but he stayed within himself and he came up huge in that inning with that three-run homerun.
“I’ve said it all along, this team is special. I know it’s game 1 out of 162, but I could have easily, after that second inning, folded, but I told myself I’ve got to grind through whatever innings I can get and it turned out to be great. We’ve got to tip our hat to the bullpen – what a great job they did – everyone came in and it just shows you the depth that we have and this bullpen is really good.
“I was here [the whole time] I felt like I pitched yesterday, actually, I came out a long time ago. But like I said it was a great team win and the best thing is we won and that’s all that matters.”
Arencibia’s strong defensive game behind the plate…
“To me, J.P. Has always been a great defensive catcher. He’s always blocked great balls for me and sometimes I know I throw tough breaking balls to where they’re not even close and he blocks them. That guy works his ass off and he wants to be the best at whatever he does and he showed it today. He took a beating. People don’t notice the little foul balls he took off the mask and off the risk. Like I said he’s a grinder and that’s what he’s all about.”