Opening Day live blog
The longest Opening Day game in major league history is finally over. Newly acquired closer Sergio Santos wraps up an impressive comeback win for his new club by getting the last two outs of Toronto's 7-4, 16-inning triumph over the Indians. Compared to Thursday afternoon's other games -- and despite concluding well into the night this was in fact a day game -- this was a slugfest: 11 runs between the two teams compared to 10 from the other four games combined. Look closer though and the pitching was almost as dominant as it was elsewhere in the majors. The Blue Jays held Cleveland scoreless for 15 of the contest's 16 innings, including the final 14.
That's all for SI.com's live blog. Thanks for reading everyone. Enjoy Part IV of 2012's Opening Day on Friday when the rest of the major league teams get their season underway.
J.P. Arencibia crushes a slider over the leftfield wall for a three-run homer that puts Toronto on top 7-4 in the top of the 16th. In the Blue Jays' ongoing youth movement, Arencibia was once considered a possible future star but now he's thought of by many as a placeholder until Travis D'Arnaud is ready to take his job, perhaps later this season. Big moments like that will do nothing to help Arencibia's cause for keeping his everyday role.
Well why not. This game, now in the bottom of the 15th, has had everything else so how about having the benches clear? Luis Perez threw a little too close to Shin-Soo Choo for the Indian star's liking -- the pitch was up and in, causing Choo to hit the ground -- and he walked out to the mound, causing the benches and bullpens to empty. Perez was not ejected, despite a warning from home plate umpire Tim Welke in yesterday's game. Wait a minute, that was this game. Sorry, just felt like yesterday. Choo eventually walks but is stranded at first and the game heads to the 16th.
Toronto's bullpen has been fantastic. Six Blue Jays relievers have now pitched nine innings, the equivalent of a complete game, allowing no runs and just four hits. Luis Perez just wrapped up 1-2-3 14th inning by striking out Jason Kipnis and Jack Hannahan. On to the 15th.
The Indians had the bases loaded and one out. The Blue Jays had six defenders in the infield, including former Cleveland star Omar Vizquel. It seemed the Tribe was on the verge of a walk-off win. Instead, one pitch to Asdrubal Cabrera was all it took for a 6-4-3 double play that got Toronto out of the jam and moved the game to the 13th inning. This may be the game of the day, full of great defensive plays (like Colby Rasmus' diving catch on Jack Hannahan), a ninth-inning comeback, unusual strategy and, well, who knows what else. Stay tuned.
Sean Marshall, a 6-foot-7 lefty, makes his reds debut a successful one, even if it doesn't come in a save situation. Marshall shuts down the Marlins' two through four hitters on 11 pitches anyway, striking out Emilio Bonifacio, getting Hanley Ramriez on a comebacker and whiffing Giancarlo Stanton to close out the Reds' 4-0 win and dropping the Marlins to 0-2.
Jay Bruce greets new Marlins pitcher Edward Mujica with a leadoff homer to dead center in the bottom of the eighth. With two out and one on, Chris Heisey hits a booming double that just evades Bonifacio's leaping attempt at the wall to plate Drew Stubbs and make it 4-0 Reds. That's the lead that new Reds closer Sean Marshall, acquired from the Cubs for Tim Wood this winter, will be protecting against the heart of the Marlins' order in the top of the ninth.
Tony Sipp escapes a bases-loaded jam and the Indians are still tied with the Blue Jasys at 4-all heading to the bottom of the 12th.
Righty sidearmer Steve Cishek replaces Buehrle to start the seventh. Buehrle recovered from a rocky first inning to turn in a quality debut outing for the Marlins (6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K), but leaves the game down 2-0 due to Johnny Cueto's strong outing. Cishek gives up a one-out double to Cozart that Giancarlo Stanton can't pick up, allowing Cozart to go to third, but Guillen's subsequent intentional walk to Votto pays off when Rolen hits into an inning-ending double play, stranding Cozart at third.
Cueto seemed to have a bit of a tingle in his pitching hand after grounding out to finish the sixth, but it didn't have much impact on his performance in the top of the seventh as he worked around a one-out double by Gaby Sanchez, striking out Chris Coghlin and getting Omar Infate to fly out to strand Sanchez. He did, however, get his pitch count up to 95 that inning, and Reds manager Dusty Baker had righty Jose Arredondo and lefty Bill Bray warming in the bullpen throughout the inning, so he could be done after seven scoreless innings. It's 2-0 Reds at the seventh-inning stretch.
The Reds add an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on doubles by Scott Rolen and Ryan Ludwick, but Buehrle rallies for a key strikeout of Drew Stubbs, allowing him to walk eight-place hitter Ryan Hanagan to face pitcher Cueto with two outs to strand Ludwick and Hanagan. Buehrle's last pitch was his 108th, which means the Marlins will go to their bullpen in the seventh. Cueto, meanwhile, has a 2-0 lead at just 74 pitches after six.
Cleveland's Travis Hafner opens the bottom of the ninth by lining a single to center and advances to second when the Jays' Colby Rasmus has the ball go by him for an error. Jason Donald runs for Hafner but after being sacrificed to third is stranded there when Francisco Cordero gets a pair of groundouts, moving the game into extra innings.
One always wonders how much impact running the bases has on a pitcher in the following half inning. Johnny Cueto was on base for more than 20 pitches in the bottom of the fifth and had to hustle back to second base after making too large a turn on Brandon Phillips' single. In the top of the sixth, he gave up the Marlins' first clean single of the game, a sharp Jose Reyes grounder into left, issued his first walk of the game to Emilio Bonifacio and went full on Hanley Ramirez. However, Cuteo recovered by striking out Ramirez and Malins manager Ozzie Guillen helped him out by sending the runners, resulting in an inning-ending double play when Reyes was caught dead in his tracks between second and third.
Jack Hannahan's good day continues. The Indians third baseman, whose three-run homer in the second had held up as the difference in the game until the ninth inning, made a backhand stab on J.P. Arencibia's groundball down the line and threw a one-hopper to first to get the out and keep the game tied. Bottom of the ninth coming up tied at four. Could we be getting out second walk-off win of the day? We already know this will be the third of today's five games to be decided in the final at-bat.
Buehrle worked a 1-2-3 fourth inning on five pitches to bring his pitch count back under control, but the Reds made him work in the bottom of the fifth, forcing him to throw 29 pitches to put him up at 84 after five. Meanwhile, Reds starter Johnny Cueto added to his strong outing with a broken-bat single in that inning, but he and Brandon Phillips, who also singled, were stranded as Buehrle struck out the side around them, including Joey Votto on a checked swing with two outs to end the frame. Still 1-0 Reds after five.
Chris Perez strained his oblique early in spring training and didn't make his first appearance in a game until last week. How much that impacted his dreadful performance on Thursday is unclear but there's no question he didn't look ready for a game that mattered. He was overthrowing and all over the strike zone and coughed up a three-run lead.
The first two hitters -- Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson -- singled, Jose Bautista hit a sacrifice fly and after a walk to Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion ripped a double high off the leftfield wall to score two runs and tie the game. After erasing Encarnacion on a comebacker by Brett Lawrie, Perez walked Eric Thames and was pulled from the game with the score now tied at four.
Officially, Justin Masterson got 24 outs today, 10 of them via strikeout. Unofficially, he's gotten 25 outs through eight innings. With the Progressive Field crowd on its feet, Masterson struck out J.P. Arencibia with a wicked breaking ball that should have ended the eighth. The pitch was so good though that it got past Indians catcher Carlos Santana, allowing Arencibia to reach first.
Just as he's done all game, Masterson was unfazed, responding by getting Colby Rasmus to line out to right and end his day with a terrificline: eight innings, two hits, one walk, 10 Ks. Cleveland is three outs away from a season-opening victory.
Sorry Cubbies. Down 2-1 and facing Brad Lidge, birthday boy Ian Stewart hits a one-out drive to right that would have tied the game most days at Wrigley. But it stays in the ballpark and Stewart has to settle for a triple. Jeff Baker then chops a groundball to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman who cuts down pinch-runner Joe Mather (running on contact) at the plate. Quietly, this has been a great day for Zimmerman, who made a couple nice defensive plays, drew two walks and drove the ball on two long outs.
Lidge, who's lost some velocity (he scrapes 90 mph with his fastball but still has a pretty filthy slider), then gets Marlon Byrd staring at a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner to end it. Lidge struck out two in the inning, basically serving up one bad pitch that Stewart made him pay for. It's his first save for the Nationals, who are without regular closer Drew Storen. Tyler Clippard is your winning pitcher with Carlos Marmol taking the loss and the Nationals are tied for first place with only 161 more to go.
Mark Buehrle won the Gold Glove in the American League the last three years but couldn't handle a chopper to the left of the mound by Zach Cozart to lead off the bottom of the third. That was ruled a hit, and after a fielder's choice by Votto, Buehrle picked him off to end another scoreless inning. Buehrle seems to be settling down, and with Cueto cruising, the next few innings could fly by.
Oh, Marmol! After the Cubs' best reliever got a couple easy outs to start the top of the ninth in a 1-1 game, Washington's Chad Tracy (Chad Tracy is back in the league?!) drives a double off the almost-blooming ivy at Wrigley Field for the game's only extra-base hit (so far). Ian Desmond shoots one to rightfield off the end of the bat to score pinch-runner Brett Carroll and give the Nats a 2-1 lead. Brad Lidge is coming on in the bottom half to try and lock down his first save as a National.
Drew Stubbs pushes a bunt past a diving Buehrle to lead off the bottom of the second for the Reds with a single, but Buehrle escapes further trouble, striking out Brandon Phillips with a changeup. That was a 13-pitch inning, but Buehrle is already up to 40 tosses after two.
Johnny Cueto, meanwhile, looks sharp in Cincinnati. After three innings, the only Marlin to reach did so on a bunt and an error. He has thrown 25 of his 35 pitches for strikes and is sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball. Reds lead 1-0 going to the bottom of the third.
It won't get a lot of attention given the way Justin Masterson is pitching but Casey Kotchman's defense has been impressive in every possible way in this game. He ranged to his right to handle a tough chance by Brett Lawrie in the second inning and has handled a couple of tough throws in the dirt to prevent rallies from getting started. The latest came in the top of the seventh when he scooped a low throw by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to complete a double play and erase a leadoff walk.
Kotchman was a low-cost offseason signing over the winter but he was exactly what Cleveland had in mind when its front office went searching for proven major league veterans who could play everyday this offseason. His arrival basically signaled the end of the Matt LaPorta experiment at first base in Cleveland and one day in, no one is going to complain.
Oh, Kerry Wood. An awful eighth inning for the guy who got the biggest pre-game ovation from the Wrigley faithful. Cubs manager Dale Sveum gives Ryan Dempster (7 2/3 IP, 2 hits, 10 Ks, 3 walks) the hook with two outs and Ryan Zimmerman coming to the plate with the tying run on first. Ian Desmond steals second, Zimmerman works a walk, and Wood throws a wild pitch to make it second and third.
Then Wood commits the cardinal sin: walking Adam LaRoche, who I won't pick on anymore except to say he's been absolutely atrocious today and shouldn't be batting clean-up for any organized baseball team, to load the bases. Jayson Werth then comes back from 0-2 to work a bases loaded walk, and we have a tie game.
Strasburg (7 IP, 5 hits, 1 run, 5 Ks, 1 walk) was pinch-hit for to start the top of the eighth, meaning he is off the hook in his first Opening Day start, though he won't be getting a win either.
With one out in the top of the first, Reds third baseman Scott Rolen bobbles a slap bunt from Miami's Emilio Bonifacio for an error, but Cueto pitches around it to strand the runner.
Then, in the bottom of the inning, with Brandon Phillips on first via a walk, Zach Cozart hits a would-be double-play-ball to third, but the throw to second by Hanley Ramirez, in just his second regular season game at third base, is wild and the Marlins only get one of the two outs. Joey Votto, the former NL MVP who recently signed a massive 12-year, $225 million deal to stay in Cincinnati, came up to a huge ovation and follows with a single,
Mark Buehrle then hits Rolen in the left tricep to load the bases with one out for Jay Bruce. Bruce gets a full-count cutter he can drive, but pulls it foul down the right-field line, missing a grand slam. Two pitches later, Bruce hits a similar pitch to deep center to plate Cozart and move up the other runners. That brings up Ludwick with men on second and third and two outs, but Ludwick flies out to center. 1-0 Reds after one. That was a 27-pitch inning for Buehrle.
Mark Melancon in to pitch the ninth for the Red Sox. Kevin Youkilis moves to first. Nick Punto is at third. Rayburn flies to deep center for the first out and Jhonny Peralta continues his perfect day with a single to right. Alex Avila follows with a single that puts the winning run on second with one out and Valentine hooks Melancon in favor of newly-anointed closer Alfredo Aceves.
Aceves hits Santiago, who just barely checks his swing, on the back heel to load the bases with one out. Austin Jackson then singles under the dive of Punto and the Tigers win 3-2.
It used to be the every baseball season would start with a day game in Cincinnati. Those days are long gone. Instead we get the Marlins visiting Cincy for a 4:05 start after playing a night game in Miami on Wednesday.
Longtime White Sox ace Mark Buehrle will make his Marlins debut against Johnny Cueto, who posted a 2.31 ERA in 24 starts last year but didn't qualify for the ERA title after throwing just 156 innings. Ryan Ludwick starts in left for Cincinnati against the lefty Buehrle. Ryan Hanigan, not rookie Devin Mesoraco starts behind the plate. Fellow rookie Zach Cozart bats second. For the marlins, Chris Coghlan starts in place of Logan Morrison in leftfield and hits sixth behind Gaby Sanchez. The rest of their lineup is the same as Wednesday night's.
Interesting top of the fourth in Cleveland. Justin Masterson throws a little too close to Kelly Johnson for home plate umpire Tim Welke's taste and the ump warns both benches (Shin Soo Choo had been brushed back earlier in the game). Masterson goes on to strike out Johnson but then gives up a home run to the next hitter, Jose Bautista.
That's Bautista's first home run this season but it will be far from his last. The Blue Jays slugger hit 97 home runs combined the past two years, 18 more than the next-closest total (Albert Pujols had 79).
Masterson responds by getting a groundout from Adam Lind and a strikeout of Edwin Encarnacion and now has seven strikeouts through four innings. More importantly, he also has a 4-1 lead.
Wait, is the lyric "Take me out to the crowd" or "Take me out with the crowd"? Stretch time at Wrigley (Bill Murray and Big Head Todd, I assume from Big Head Todd & The Monsters). Murray goes with "with the crowd." It's 1-0 Cubs, and Ryan Dempster is quietly twirling a gem in the shadow of Strasburg. He hasn't given up a hit since Ian Desmond singled on the first pitch of the game. He's walked struck out eight and walked three. Dempster's gotten a lot of help from the wind; Ryan Zimmerman could have two bombs and four RBIs right now. But I suppose in Wrigley you pitch to the conditions.
Dustin Pedroia leads off the ninth with a double into the right-center-field gap, moves to third on a subsequent single by Adrian Gonzalez, and scores on a sac fly to center by David Ortiz, illustrating just how big that insurance run in the bottom of the eighth was for the Tigers. With one out, the score 2-1 Tigers, and pinch-runner Darnell McDonald at first, Valverde strikes out Kevin Youkilis swinging at a 1-2 splitter for the second out. McDonald then steals second, putting the tying run in scoring position and bringing the outfielders in from their no-doubles positioning. Valverde then falls behind Ryan Sweeney 2-0 and Sweeney blasts a triple into the right-field corner on an 83 mph splitter to tie the game at 2-2. Cody Ross lines out to short and we're going into the bottom of the ninth.
That inning erases a great start by Justin Verlander: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K and is Valverde's first blown save since 2010.
And the Mets are in first place. So it's only one game. And they're only tied with the Phillies. But five shutout innings from Johan Santana and four more blank frames from the retooled bullpen ought to be encouraging as New York grabs the 1-0 Opening Day victory.
Tough day for the middle of the Nats' order, but in different ways. Ryan Zimmerman has hit two balls that would be gone if the wind wasn't blowing in. Instead he has two flyouts (plus a walk). Adam LaRoche looks like he's blindfolded and swinging at a piñata, with three strikeouts through six innings. He and Jayson Werth have each stranded five runners (all of LaRoche's with one out, Werth's with two down).
A record 82 1-0 games were played in 1968. That figure wasn't approached for most of the 1990s and 2000s, but then in 2010 there were 62 (the sixth-most ever), and in '11 there were 56 (tied for 11th).
The Phillies just won the first such contest of 2012, behind a brisk two hour and 14 minute two-hitter by Roy Halladay and new closer Jonathan Papelbon, and they figure to be involved in many more. Philadelphia's pitching looked as brilliant as advertised, and its lineup as punchless, as it produced a single extra-base hit (a double by John Mayberry, Jr.) and was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Minutes later, the Mets and Braves lifted 2012's tally of 1-0 games to two. We're in a new, pitching-heavy era in baseball, and in some ways the Phillies are constructed to take advantage of that. However, if they don't find some more offensive answers -- at least until Ryan Howard and Chase Utley return -- their status as the favorite in the NL East will be very questionable. It's very hard for a club that allows itself such a slim margin of error, even one that boasts Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels atop its rotation, to win with anything approaching the consistency required of a contender.
Tough to get a great read on Stephen Strasburg today, but he looks good. Not video game good, but good. The Cubs are jumping on everything early, so he's only thrown 60 pitches through five (four hits, one cheap run, 3 K's, one walk). His fastball is consistently in the 95-96 range, and his curveball looks sharp. He hasn't used the change much, but it's been effective in spots. He's left a couple of pitches in bad spots and given up a couple of well-hit balls. But considering recently-demoted Nats pitcher John Lannan is going to face some better lineups in the minors than what Strasburg is facing today, it's hard to get overly excited.
The Tigers have stretched their lead over the Red Sox to 2-0 heading to the ninth. They got an insurance run in the eighth from an Austin Jackson leadoff triple and a sacrifice fly to centerfield by $214 million addition Prince Fielder. Jacoby Ellsbury's throw to the plate to try and get Jackson hits the lip of the grass around the mound, allowing Jackson to score easily. As expected, Papa Grande (Jose Valverde) is coming on to pitch the ninth. -- Cliff Corcoran
Someone forgot to tell the Indians that runs were hard to come by today. They've scored four off Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero, all of them in the second inning and three of them coming on a home run by Jack Hannahan. It's the first home run of a day that has otherwise been dominated by pitchers and the first of the third Opening Day of the 2012 season, a little bit of trivia you may want to tuck away for a bar bet this September.
Only seven innings into the season, and the Mets already have their first injury. Centerfielder Andres Torres, who's been battling a left calf strain, pulled up lame chasing a gapper hit by Tyler Pastornicky for a triple. (It was the first major-league hit for Atlanta's Pastornicky -- and might have only been a double had Torres not hurt himself.) The club just announced that he reinjured that same calf. The Mets still hold their 1-0 lead now in the top of the eighth.
Justin Verlander works a 1-2-3 eighth to push his day to 105 pitches and eight scoreless innings. He has retired the last seven men he has faced. In the ninth inning the Red Sox will send up Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz, who are 1-for-8 with a walk in this game, but it's likely Verlander won't be around to face them. Detroit has Jose Valverde, who converted all 52 of his save chances last season, including the postseason, ready to pitch the ninth.
The scouting report on Pedro Alvarez: the guy can only hit straight fastballs. During his first at-bat, Halladay threw him two curves, four cutters and a splitter (Alvarez flew out to center). In his second at-bat, Halladay threw him four straight cutters, followed by a curve that produced a swinging strike out. In his third, which just happened: curve, cutter, then another cutter, which Alvarez turned into a soft flyout to center, in the process becoming the 13th straight Pirate Halladay has retired.
Alvarez's immense power made him the 2nd pick of the 2008 draft, and he is a key part of the Pirates' (so-called) rebuilding effort. But he hit a miserable .191, with 80 strikeouts in 74 games last year, and even though he was no better this spring (.170, 22 K's in 19 games), the Pirates said they'd allow him to work things out as their starting third baseman. It's too early to make a definitive judgment, and unfair to make one about a hitter based on three at-bats versus Roy Halladay. However, suffice it to say, the early returns have not been promising.
The floodgates open at Wrigley! After an Alfonso Soriano one-out single, birthday boy Ian Stewart hits a dribbler in front of home plate (Stewart's first two at-bats with the Cubs have traveled a combined seven feet) and Wilson Ramos' throw to second is off. Soriano is thrown out stealing at third (Ryan Zimmerman does his Hugo Chavez security force impression, with a great pick at third on the play to save Ramos). Cubs fans will bash Soriano for the CS, but it was not a bad idea to attempt it. After a Jeff Baker walk Marlon Byrd drops a single into left for the fourth run of faux Opening Day. The Cubs have a seemingly insurmountable 1-0 lead at the end of four.
Justin Masterson gives up a double to Adam Lind leading off the second but retires Edwin Encarnacion and brett Lawrie withot the ball leaving the infield. Masterson then strands Lind at third when he takes a hit away from Eric Thames by snagging a groundball up the middle.
With two outs in the seventh, Detroit's Jhonny Peralta doubles into the leftfield corner on a 92 mph fastball at the knee but over the plate. Jon Lester doesn't get the call on a 1-2 changeup at the top of the zone to Alex Avila, then just misses outside with a fastball, and Avila hits the next pitch, another fastball away, into the left field corner for an RBI double, putting the Tigers up 1-0 with the first run of the game.
Peralta is the hitting star so far. He's singled, walked and doubled in three trips and scored the game's only run. Lester strikes out Ramon Santiago on his 107th pitch, but is now in line for a tough loss with Justin Verlander coming back out for the eighth and Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit warming in the Tigers' bullpen. 1-0 Tigers after seven.
That does it for Bedard, who had a very strong Pirates debut: seven innings pitched, six hits allowed (five of them singles), one walk, four strikeouts and one earned run. Of course, he'll probably be tagged with a loss, given the way Roy Halladay is dealing. Bedard's next outing will come next Wednesday against the Dodgers in L.A., and that might tell us more about whether we might see a real rebirth from him this season. The unintimidating nature of this Phillies' lineup is becoming increasingly evident. Their No. 3 hitter -- Jimmy Rollins -- bunted his way on in the first inning, after all.
Now this is how you start a season: Justin Masterson struck out the side, whiffing Toronto's Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson and Jose Bautista. The Indians desperately need a reliable ace now that Ubaldo Jimenez remains a question mark after a shaky spring training and Masterson gave them plenty to feel good about with his first frame this season.
Get used to it Nats fans: Bases loaded (Demond reaches on error, Espinosa and Zimmerman walk), one out, Adam LaRoche flails at three straight pitches to strike out and Jayson Werth flies out to right to end the inning. In Werth's defense, he made decent contact on the flyout. In LaRoche's defense, he shouldn't be batting cleanup for anyone outside of the Atlantic League (do the Newark Bears have any scouts on hand?).
In the top of the seventh inning, Justin Verlander strikes out Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Sweeney looking at nasty curveballs, then gets Cody Ross to fly out for his fourth 1-2-3 inning of the afternoon. Lefty Phil Coke and righty Octavio Dotel were warming during that frame and Verlander is now at 95 pitches having allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out seven in seven scoreless innings.
I'm not entirely sure what this season will hold for the Blue Jays -- though they could very well contend for the AL's extra Wild Card spot -- but this season is an unqualified success already because they've brought back their classic uniforms from their glory years. Now if they could only bring back in-their-prime stars like Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter to wear them.
The game's first run comes in expectedly muted fashion: on a shallow sacrifice fly by Carlos Ruiz to right. A throw of any quality by Pittsburgh's Jose Tabata would have nailed Ty Wigginton at the plate, but Tabata's throw was high. That allowed Wigginton to slide in safely, and seems to have set up the first of what will probably turn out to be very many 1-0 games in which the Phillies will be involved this season.
Jason Bay, a guy who could use a little extra help, narrowly missed becoming the first hitter to benefit from the newly moved-in walls at Citi Field as his two-on, one-out sixth-inning flyball was caught a foot before the fence in leftfield. The Mets later stranded those two runners but take what -- given the pitching dominance across baseball today -- seems to be an insurmountable 1-0 lead into the seventh inning.
Jon Lester gets his third double-play of the game, this one off the bat of Prince Fielder, to strand a one-out walk to Miguel Cabrera in a three-batter sixth inning. Lester, who is now at 87 pitches, won't have to face the Tigers two best hitters again in this game, but they will hit again, and with the game still scoreless after six, that favors the home-team in Detroit. Verlander will open the seventh at 83 pitches. Both teams are getting close to putting this game in the hands of the bullpen given that this is the first start of the year for both pitchers.
A run! A run! David Wright's single scores Andres Torres and after 38 scoreless half-innings across baseball this afternoon, the Mets have scored the first run of the day.
And they still have two runners on with no outs in the bottom of the sixth, as the Braves make a pitching change.
We're finally getting a glimpse of how Miguel Cabrera looks defensively after his much-discussed move to third base this season. Jacoby Ellsbury hits a foul pop not far from the third base bag and Cabrera stumbles around and falls backward to make the catch. Two pitches later, Pedroia hits a grounder that eats up Cabrera and rolls into left. It's ruled an error, which is a tough call, but the ball was hit directly at Cabrera.
Considering Prince Fielder has already saved Jhonny Peralta a couple of throwing errors with nice scoops at first, this all points to the Tigers' biggest weakness heading into this season. They're going to be a terrible fielding team, and we haven't even seen Delmon Young taking his Family Circus routes to the ball in left field yet.
Verlander, of course, is not fazed by any of it. He strikes out David Ortiz on a big 0-2 curveball to strand two runners on base and keep the game scoreless.
As nothing much is happening in this game -- or in any of them, for that matter (how about mixing in a run, fellas?) -- perhaps it's time to talk ballparks. The cameras keep showing shots of a packed PNC Park. The standing room ramps in leftfield, for example, seem completely full. But Pennsylvania's newish ballparks -- Pittsburgh's PNC, opened in 2001, and Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, opened in 2004 -- have had significantly different early histories, and impacts on the clubs that play within them.
The Pirates upped their payroll in '01 from $26.6 million to $57.8 million, and the new stadium's opening spurred an attendance increase from 1.75 million to 2.44 million. But Pittsburgh has never drawn more than 2 million fans in a season again, and the payroll has again never been so high. The Phillies, meanwhile, also bumped their payroll significantly after moving into their new place -- from $70.8 million in '03 to $93.2 million in '04 -- and their attendance also increased, from 2.26 million to 3.25 million. In the Phillies' case, though, annual attendance has actually exceeded even that of their first year in Citizens Bank in each of the past four seasons, and their payroll will this season be nearly twice what it was back in '04.
The lesson, as always? New ballparks mean nothing, at least not for long, unless the clubs that call them home win.
Ryan Raburn pulls Lester's first pitch of the fifth past the dive of Aviles at shortstop. That's the fourth leadoff single in five innings against Lester. Finally, the Tigers add a second runner when Jhonny Peralta follows with a five-pitch walk. That makes the Tigers the first team in this game to get two runners on in an inning.
With men on first and second and no outs, the Tigers ask Alex Avila to bunt. Avila had three sacrifice bunts last year but falls into an 0-2 hole (one strike called and a bunt attempt at a cutter missed) and strikes out on a 91 mph fastball up in the zone. Lester then gets ahead of Ramon Santiago 0-2 and gets him to pop out to Pedroia in shallow left and battles back from a 3-0 count on Austin Jackson to go full and get him to fly to right to strand both runners. Lester has now thrown 76 pitches and stranded or erased six baserunners. Verlander has allowed just two men to reach base. Still scoreless after five.
Ryan Dempster works out of some trouble in the first. After Desmond's single, Danny Espinosa draws a walk and the runners move to second and third on a deep Ryan Zimmerman flyout that's a three-run home run on most days in Wrigley (temperatures are in the 40s and the wind is blowing straight in). And then there's Adam LaRoche. Sorry, clean-up hitter Adam LaRoche (.546 OPS in an injury-plagued 2011). Down on strikes. Jayson Werth flies out to end the threat. Sorry to spoil your Strasmas Day, Nats fans, but that Washington lineup is... interesting.
And if you're wondering, Strasburg starts his 2012 with a 95-mph two-seamer. Thank you, Tommy John.
The top of the fifth inning saw the first runner reach third and the first bases-loaded situation, as the Braves filled them up on a Matt Diaz double and then walks to Tyler Pastornicky (the No. 8 hitter making his second big-league plate appearance who fell behind 0-2) and Tommy Hanson (the pitcher). But Johan Santana, despite working Michael Bourn to a full-count, then got an inning-ending grounder back to the mound. (His throw to first was high, but thankfully for him, Ike Davis is 6-foot-4.)
The walks gave Santana his first stress test but also cost him length in this outing. Manager Terry Collins said before the game that he'd probably let his pitcher go 85 to 95 pitches, with 100 as the absolute max. Santana needed 16 pitches to end the inning after getting within one strike against Pastornicky and is now up to 84 through five innings. The Mets' bullpen is active, likely meaning Santana's day is done. And it's nothing but an unqualified success.
Oooo, first Bill Murray bounces the ceremonial first pitch, then Ryan Dempster gives up a first-pitch single to Ian Desmond, he of the .298 OBP a year ago (yes, .298 OBP, and yes, he's still hitting leadoff for the Nats). So far the Theo Epstein era in Wrigley feels an awful lot like the Jim Hendry era.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander has retired nine in a row and Boston's Jon Lester has been almost as good. He finally got the leadoff man for the first time today by getting Brennan Boesch to ground out to first in the bottom of the fourth but then walked Miguel Cabrera on four pitches. Lester broke out a cutter on 2-1 to Fielder to get a swinging strike to even the count, then got a favorable call on an outside fastball for strike three. Delmon Young hit a foul pop up in front of the first base dugout to end the inning and the Tigers strand a runner for the fourth consecutive inning. Scoreless after four in Detroit.
In 2007 there was a four-way tie for fifth place in the A.L. Cy Young voting. All four men are pitching today, but the intervening years have treated them very differently. Two of them -- Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander -- have subsequently won Cy Young awards, and have become, arguably, the dominant pitchers in their respective leagues. The Twins traded Johan Santana to the Mets for a package of players that now looks rather unimpressive (Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey), and even though Santana has been injured since 2010, he gave New York some good years before that (lest we forget, he's a cumulative 40-25 with a 2.85 in the blue and orange).
Then there is Erik Bedard. Bedard might well have won the award in '07 if not for an injury that caused him to miss the end of a season in which he struck out 10.9 batters per nine. The years to follow have been disappointing, and injury-filled, but when he's pitched he hasn't been bad: just about a strikeout per inning, an ERA well under 3.50. The Pirates signed the lefthanded Bedard to a one-year, $4.5 million contract in December to be their No. 1 starter, and it might well prove to be the winter's savviest free agent acquisition.
Through three innings against the Phillies, Bedard has looked like his old self, dialing his fastball up to the low 90s and mixing in well-commanded off-speed stuff (he has thrown 14 changeups or curves so far, 11 of them for strikes). The Phillies' three hits have come on a bunt, a soft grounder and a blooper.
Four innings and 58 pitches can only tell so much about a 19-month recovery, but so far Johan Santana looks brilliant for the Mets. He's allowed only one baserunner (a first-inning single) through four frames, having retired the last 11 batters he's faced with four strikeouts. In the fourth he showed his range, striking out Brian McCann on an 88-mph high fastball and then striking out Dan Uggla on a 79-mph change in the dirt. Still 0-0 in the bottom of the fourth.
Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla made the first error in the 2012 National League season, booting a routine groundball off the bat of Andres Torres, the speedy new leadoff hitter for the Mets. Moments later, however, Tommy Hanson, who allowed 33 stolen bases in 36 attempts last season, picked off Torres to end the inning. The Braves and Mets remain scoreless through three innings, each pitcher having faced one batter more than the minimum.
Jon Lester's cutter looks sharp today. He used it to strike out Raburn to finish the second, and Jhonny Peralta had an ugly swing on one, but Peralta ultimately singled on a 93 mph fastball. That's three innings and three leadoff singles off Lester. No double-play this time, however. Alex Avila puts good wood on a 90 mph full-count fastball, but lines out to right. Ramon Santiago flies out to shallow left on a 3-1 fastball. Austin Jackson puts a good swing on a cutter, but flies out to center. After three innings, both pitchers have faced just one more than the minimum and are just over 40 pitches. Still scoreless in Detroit.
New York's Johan Santana has been sharp through his first two innings of work, needing 29 pitches to get six outs while allowing only a single to Martin Prado. He's thrown 18 fastballs (topping out at 89.7 mph, per Pitch F/X data on BrooksBaseball.net) while mixing in six sliders and five changeups. First-pitch temperature was 53 degrees -- a far cry from the spring-training warmth of Florida -- but the weather wouldn't seem to be any issue.
Fielder, in his first at-bat as a Tiger, works Lester full then singles into right center on a shoulder high 90 mph fastball. However, he's erased by a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Delmon Young. Look for a lot of pitchers to put Fielder on in favor of facing Young this year. Lester finishes the frame by striking out Ryan Raburn swinging on a 2-2 cutter riding in. Thanks to two double plays in as many innings, Lester has faced the minimum despite giving up a pair of singles. Scoreless after two in Detroit.
The third game of baseball's third Opening Day of 2012 sees the Philadelphia Phillies travel to face the Pittsburgh Pirates, their in-state rival -- well, their fellow in-state professional baseball team. One thing to which I will be paying particular attention is the debut of the Phillies' new-look lineup. It is not new-look in a good way. Slugger Ryan Howard's continued recovery from a torn Achilles tendon, and Chase Utley's attempted recovery from chronic knee problems that might well force the premature end of his career, means that Philadelphia's offense features only two players -- centerfielder Shane Victorino and rightfielder Hunter Pence -- who can definitively be said to not be either over the hill (see: Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Ty Wigginton), or not yet arrived at the hill (Freddy Galvis, John Mayberry).
The majority of
David Ortiz leads off the top of the second inning by flaring a 93 mph fastball into the left field corner for a double. Verlander starts to increaes his velocity from 94 to 95 and then 96 and gets a a pair of groundouts (one saved by a nice scoop by Prince Fielder on a bounced throw from shortstop Jhonny Peralta) before facing Cody Ross. Verlander throws a variety of fastballs and breaking balls at Ross before striking him out looking on a nasty full-count curveball to strand Ortiz.
Austin Jackson hits a first-pitch fastball from Lester into left for a leadoff single, but is erased when Brennan Boesch grounds into a well-turned 5-4-3 double-play on the very next pitch. Miguel Cabrera then breaks his bat and lines out to third. Scoreless after one in Detroit.
Two first pitches were of note today. Gary Carter's widow and three children tossed the ceremonial type to four of Carter's former teammates: Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Mookie Wilson.
A few minutes later Johan Santana threw his first major-league pitch in 581 days: an 87-mile-per-hour fastball for a ball to Braves leadoff hitter Michael Bourn, who later grounded out to first baseman Ike Davis (playing his first game since suffering an ankle injury on May 10 of last year).
Easy, nine-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning for Verlander, whose fastball was sitting 91-92. Two soft flies to left and an infield pop-up.
The first pitch from last year's AL MVP (Verlander) to the runner-up (Jacoby Ellsbury) is a 91 mph fastball for a strike on the outside corner at the knee and we're underway on Opening Day.
Opening Day ceremonies never get old, and today's pregame rites in Queens were especially profound as the Mets celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
Among the introductions of players, coaches and staff was rousing applause for new third base coach -- and member of the Mets' 1986 World Series championship team -- Tim Teufel.
Hall of Famer player and longtime Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner read the home team's starting lineup. He received the first standing ovation, and the fans remained on their feet, culminating in cheers for Johan Santana, who'll take a major league mound for the first time in 19 months.
The pregame highlight, however, was the unveiling of the season-long tribute for Gary Carter. The logo, a black home plate with white trim and Carter's nickname and number, "Kid 8," will be worn as a patch on the uniform's right sleeve and as a decoration on the left-centerfield wall. His widow and children were on hand for the occasion.
The first game of the day finds the Red Sox visiting the Tigers in a matchup of aces with Boston lefty Jon Lester (15-9, 3.47 ERA in 2011) facing off against last year's American League Most Valuable Player Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40). You can read my extended take on this matchup in
This game also marks Prince Fielder's regular season debut with Detroit and finds him hitting cleanup behind Miguel Cabrera in a lineup that pushes lefty catcher Alex Avila down to eighth in the lineup and puts Ramon Santiago at second with Ryan Raburn moving to designated hitter in place of left-handed option Andy Dirks. The Red Sox' lineup is familiar one-through-five, but finishes with Ryan Sweeney (RF), Cody Ross (LF), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C) and Mike Aviles (SS), a sequence that has led to a lot of the pessimism about their 2012 outlook.
Hello from sunny, cool, remodeled Citi Field and welcome to SI.com's live blog of Opening Day (Part III of IV).
Gametime temperature will be in the low 50s for Mets ace Johan Santana's first big-league start since Sept. 2, 2010 and the Braves' first game since last season's Game 162 loss, in which they blew a ninth-inning lead and lost in 13 to miss out on the playoffs.
But the most important number of the day is eight.
During warm-ups and batting practice all of the Mets wore Gary Carter's No. 8 jersey in a very nice tribute to the Hall of Fame catcher and Mets icon who passed away this offseason. Manager Terry Collins, speaking for the organization, called it an "honor" to wear the jersey.
Eight also happens to be the number of feet by which the leftfield wall was reduced (from 16 to eight) in an offseason remodeling. Though the corner dimensions remain the same (335 to left, 330 to right), the outfield walls in the gaps were moved in nearly 20 feet in certain areas.
The Mets' internal study, as reported by mlb.com, projected that there would have been 151 more home runs -- 81 for the Mets, 70 for opponents -- had the new configuration of Citi been in place over the past three seasons. New York hit 162 homers at home in the first three seasons of Citi Field, the fewest by any major league club in its home ballpark. The Mets' outfield defense, a weakness last year, should also be improved given the smaller area the players have to cover.