Home > Uncategorized > Thoughts From MLB Opening Day(s) 2011

Thoughts From MLB Opening Day(s) 2011

I was going to recap everything that happened Thursday on Thursday, but I had a little bit of a problem. This tiny tot, with his eyes all a glow, found it hard to sleep Wednesday night. I was so excited for opening day, I couldn’t fall back to sleep after awaking at 3:30 a.m. By the end of the opening day No. 1, I was dead.

So now that each team has completed the customary introductions and gotten some real baseball into its system, I’ll finish what I started and include Friday’s happenings.

Braves defeat Nationals, 2-0: This game had many of the season’s firsts because, well, it was the first game to start. First pitch from Livan Hernandez to Martin Prado happened at 10:11 a.m.  First hit, 10:15 a.m., was a double from Chipper Jones. First run and RBI came on a Brian McCann single, scoring Chipper at 10:16 a.m.. Jason Heyward hit the first home run at 10:32 a.m. Rick Ankiel was the first player to get caught stealing at 11:15 a.m., which raised a question: Why is Rick Ankiel trying to steal with two outs and nobody on, down by two in the fourth?

Yankees defeat Tigers, 5-3: I thought Chip Caray wouldn’t be topped. During the Braves’ final exhibition game Wednesday, he accidentally changed pitcher Brandon Beachy’s last name to a word used to describe a female dog-y. But YES announcer Ken Singleton took the comedic value of proper name slips of the tongue to another level Thursday as he changed Will Rhymes’ first name to Busta. A good laugh was had by all. Rhymes went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. I’m going to hate myself for this, but Rhymes needs more pitches where his eyes can see.

That Yankees bullpen looks good on paper and it looked freaking awesome against the Tigers. Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera each pitched a perfect inning with a strikeout.

Most managers like to take it easy on their starters at the beginning of the season, but not Jim Leyland. He let Justin Verlander throw 114 pitches as he battled through six innings.

Reds defeat Brewers, 7-6: I would think it’s difficult to put into words the rapid and extreme mood swing that Cincinnati Reds fans experienced at the start of this game. All the fans are jacked up for the first pitch, ready to see their boys defend the team’s first division title since 1995. WOOOOOOOOOOO, LET’S GO REDS!!!

Seven pitches in: Uh-oh.

Two pitches later: It’s definitely a new season.

But Ramon Hernandez made everything OK with a walk-off homer, which is always fun. I said in my season preview that one of the reasons I think the Brewers are going to win the NL Central is because John Axford is legit. I appreciate him backing up my faith with four earned runs in the ninth. Even his outs were smashed.

Angels defeat Royals, 4-2, Thursday; Royals defeat Angels, 2-1, Friday: I can not confirm nor deny accusations that I fell asleep during Thursday’s game. I would appreciate it if you respected my privacy on the matter.

Jeff Francis probably won’t stay healthy, but it was kind of neat to watch him pitch as well as he did Friday. He was a pretty decent pitcher in 2006 and 2007 but has made just 44 starts since. He missed all of the 2009 season. I would really like to see what he can do if given 30 starts at age 30.

Going into Saturday, Torii Hunter has the longest home run of the year with this 461-foot monster Thursday.

Kila Ka’aihue (KEY-luh Kuh-eye-HOO-a) launched a game-winning home run Friday. At least 10 different pronunciations of his last name were presented by the Angels’ TV broadcasters. Listening to the visiting feed during Royals games this season will be a sweet treat.

Padres defeat Cardinals, 5-3, in 11 innings: Three double plays for Pujols. Ryan Franklin gives up a game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth. The Padres spoil opening day. Matt Holliday plays — and homers — through appendicitis, which will keep him out for a few weeks. It’s only one game.

And you’ve got to give some credit to the Padres. They took advantage of the Cardinals’ big error in the 11th. The pitchers made the right pitch when they needed to the most. The bullpen gave up one run, two walks and three hits over the final five innings.

Dodgers defeat Giants, 2-1, Thursday; Dodgers defeat Giants, 4-3, Friday: The Giants could have won both of these games easily if they didn’t treat the baseball like scrap paper. The Dodgers scored their first run Thursday when Buster Posey unleashed an unnecessary throw with the intent of picking off Matt Kemp at third base. If his try was on target, Kemp still would have made it back safely, but that was of no matter since the throw went down the left-field line.

On Friday, the Giants made three errors — two actual, one mental — to lose the game in the sixth inning. With two outs and Matt Kemp on first Pablo Sandoval forgot to check Kemp at second on a ground ball to third. Kemp broke for third as soon as Sandoval threw across the diamond and made it well before the throw back. Sandoval made a throwing error a few batters later, immediately followed by a fielding error from Jonathan Sanchez.  It all led to three deciding runs for the Dodgers. The Giants entered that inning leading, 3-1. They would have left with the same lead if just for some clean play.

Jonathan Broxton faltered in the second half of last season, lost his closer’s role late, displayed poor pitch control this spring and got booed at Dodger Stadium during a spring training game earlier this week. So I was very interested in seeing what he would do against the Giants. He pitched in both games and outside of a Pat Burrell home run Thursday, he closed them out and looked relatively good. The key for Broxton is throwing his offspeed stuff for strikes because he has lost a tick or two off his fastball.

My biggest relief in these first two days of the season: The Lincecum-Kershaw pitching duel didn’t disappoint one iota.

Phillies defeat Astros, 5-4: I was really pulling for the underdog Astros to win this one. Then the Brandon Lyon of 2008 entered to pour some much-needed gasoline on the Phillies’ sparking offense. Seven batters, six singles, game over.

Now, Roy Halladay pitched very well (seven innings, five hits, one run, zero walks, six strikeouts). But don’t overlook Brett Myers, who may have been a bit above. He allowed three hits and two runs (one earned) in seven innings. Yes, he walked three batters and didn’t record a K, but he was very efficient with just 85 pitches, and Halladay had a bunch of outs that were hit very hard. Given the lineups each pitcher had to face, I’d give the majority decision to the phormer Phillie.

Pirates defeat Cubs, 6-3: Ryan Dempster got knocked around. The Cubs left 10 men on base. My top fantasy sleeper at second base,  Neil Walker, hit a grand slam. The weather was horrible. In other words, it was probably the start that most Cubs fans expected.  It was a tough go for the Cubbies.

White Sox defeat Indians, 15-10: A bunch of pitchers didn’t bring their A game on opening day. High-profile names such as Lester and Jimenez had starts to forget. But Fausto Carmona made those guys look like Bob Gibson, circa 1968. Ten runs in three-plus innings, including a couple of home runs. If Carmona’s sinker isn’t working, it’s a batting-practice pitch, and the White Sox teed off.

I know no one wants to watch their team trail 14-0, but seriously Clevelanders, how can some of you head to the exits in the fourth inning? You already overpaid for opening-day tickets. It was chilly outside, but at least you had the sun shining down on you. That was a luxury considering the crappy weather at other games. And you live in Cleveland; you know you don’t have anything better to do.

I give a lot of credit to the Indians for fighting back and actually providing some tension in this game until Shin-Soo Choo struck out to end the eighth inning with two runners on and the Indians down by five. Hawk Harrelson was not pleased.

Carlos Santana had three hits, including a three-run home run. That surgically repaired knee certainly doesn’t seem to be bothering him.

Another question: How can a game that had 25 runs, 35 hits and two replay timeouts last “only” three hours and nine minutes. If this was the Yankees and the Red Sox, this would have gone on for close to five hours, easy.

Rangers defeat Red Sox, 9-5: David Ortiz hit a solo shot. I guess we can shelve that “Is Big Papi done” chatter this April. It broke out after just two games last year.

While one newcomer, Adrian Gonzalez, delivered some big hits, Carl Crawford looked totally out of sorts. He struck out three times. He was flailing for pitches nowhere close to the strike zone. It was very obvious that he was nervous and pressing in an effort to make a good first impression. So when does the “Is Carl Crawford done” conversation begin?

Ian Kinsler led off with a home run on the Rangers’ second pitch seen, and Daniel Baaaaaaaahrd — four earned in two-thirds of an inning — was wicked baaaaaad.

Diamondbacks defeat Rockies, 7-6, in 11 innings: Again, a lot of good pitchers didn’t pitch well on their opening day. It’s much too soon to panic and start thinking that something must be physically wrong. But if there was one pitcher whose struggles did raise some eyebrows, it was Ubaldo Jimenez. His fastball velocity was down a couple of MPHs. He had no trust in his offspeed stuff. It appeared he wasn’t at full strength.

The Diamandbacks finally broke through in the 11th after tie-breaking wild pitch. That was appropriate since neither team could do much with the bats to drive in runs. The D-Backs were 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position. The Rockies: 3-for-16.

With all of the troubles that closers such as Axford, Lyon, Ryan Franklin and Fernando Rodney had shutting the door on opening day, of course the Diamandbacks’ bullpen couldn’t make a one-run lead stand up, right? Sure, it’s been restructured, but this was a group that recorded the league’s worst bullpen ERA last year by more than one full run. Yet, somehow, it did. Actually, the bullpen was stellar in the 8th, 9th and 10th innings as well. J.J. Putz looked very sharp and got the save. This led D-Backs announcer Daron Sutton to exclaim, “Diamondback fans, you’ve got yourselves a closer!”

Did I mention it’s only one game?

Orioles defeat Rays, 4-1: While stud starters scuffled, Jeremy Guthrie may have submitted the best pitching performance of Friday. Eight innings, three hits, one walk, no runs, six Ks. One game.

The Rays came in, raised a banner, took their places and got beat by an inferior team in just two hours and eight minutes. The new offense, with Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, wasn’t exactly filled with excitement to play this game. At least, that’s how it looked. Damon went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, but at least he redeemed himself with some sterling defense. April Fools!

Blue Jays defeat Twins, 13-3: The Blue Jays hit 257 home runs last season, but they are on pace to shatter that record after one game. I’m calling it — 810 homers for the Blue Jays this year! Jose Bautista and J.P. Arencibia will combine for 486 of them!

The Blue Jays are now 26-9 on opening day. Their .742 winning percentage is the best of any current MLB team.

Marlins defeat Mets, 6-2: Josh Johnson carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning as the Mets hit one ball out of the infield through the first five. Who’s going to have the figuratively longer season: The Indians or the not-so Amazings?

Mariners defeat A’s, 6-2: Early on, this one represented everything that was depressing about Felix Hernandez’s 2010 season. Despite pitching extremely well, he was on the hook for the loss as the Mariners trailed, 2-1, and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Then Ichiro tied it up in the sixth with an RBI single. That gargantuan power source known as Chone Figgins followed with a homer to give Felix all the support he would need. After allowing a two-run homer to Josh Willingham in the first inning, Hernandez faced one over the minimum, and just one Oakland player reached second base.

Larry Bernandez is good to go.

The A’s committed five errors in the game, leading to two unearned runs. I would talk about how crazy that is on opening day, but the mistakes didn’t have much overall consequence with the way Hernandez was pitching.

Lastly, here’s how much winning on opening day means: If the Mets had won Friday, they would have recorded their fifth consecutive opening-day win. That is the current record shared by three teams — the Mariners, Diamondbacks and Pirates. Call me crazy, but I think it’s a good idea if we just let the rest of the season play out.

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