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HBT opening day wrapup

Mar 31, 2011, 11:02 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees Getty Images

There are over 2000 major league baseball games in a season. As such, the outcome of any one of them really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. But we pay greater attention on opening day. Indeed, some of us sat in front of television and computer screens for, oh, 10 straight hours, and that kind of investment justifies a look back. So, opening day: what went down?

Let’s start in the Bronx, where the Yankees took on the Tigers and a guy who wasn’t even supposed to be in the lineup — Curtis Granderson — took center stage. His solo home run in the seventh inning broke a tie and ultimately proved to be the winner, with the Yankees prevailing 6-3.  But Granderson’s defense impressed every bit as much. He made a diving catch in the first inning and an over-the-shoulder grab on the run in the ninth, showing no sign of the injured oblique muscle that made him questionable for opening day until the decision was made to let him play late Wednesday. Otherwise, everything went according to plan for New York, with CC Sabathia making a strong, though by no means dominant start and the bullpen — Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and the great Mariano Rivera — putting any hope of a Tigers comeback out of reach.

The other early start was down I-95 in Washington, where the Braves shut out the Nats, 2-0 behind 5 2/3 innings of three-hit ball from Derek Lowe and more zeros from four relievers. Jason Heyward played in his second major league opening day and hit his second major league opening day home run, a low liner that just cleared the wall in right in the second inning. Of perhaps greater significance: Chipper Jones looked healthy and spry upon his return from last year’s season-ending knee injury.  The Nats: well, they’re the Nats, and they almost always lose on opening day. It’s kind of their thing.

Heroics were the order of the day in Cincinnati where, after an ineffective Edinson Volquez welcomed the Brewers to leads of 3-0 and 4-1, the Reds chipped back, topped off by Ramon Hernandez’s three-run walk-off blast, giving the Reds a 7-6 victory. This is old hat for the Reds, of course, who started last season by notching their first six wins via final at-bat comebacks. For the Brewers it was a bullpen and defensive meltdown courtesy of Casey McGehee, who missed a tag, and Jonathan Axford, who gave up four ninth-inning runs on two hits and a walk.

Continuing our way west we had two games in Missouri, with the Cardinals taking on the Padres and the Royals facing the Angels.

In St. Louis, Albert Pujols did something he has never done before: ground into three double plays on an 0-for-5 day. This, combined with (a) Ryan Franklin blowing the save by surrendering a two-out ninth-inning home run to Cameron Maybin; and (b) a Ryan Theriot error in the 11th, allowing Chase Headley to score what proved to be the winning run, led to a dispiriting 5-3 extra-inning loss for the Cards.

In Kansas City, well, the Royals have a lineup in which it is all but required that Jeff Francoeur (a home run) and Melkey Cabrera (who reached base four times) provide the heroics. For the Angels, it all went according to plan, with Torii Hunter and Jeff Mathis homering and Jered Weaver allowing only two hits in 6 1/3 innings in the Angels’ 4-2 victory.

Opening day ended in Los Angeles, where we were treated to a fantastic pitching duel between Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw that ended in a 2-1 Dodgers victory. Kershaw was sharp, going seven innings, allowing only four hits and striking out nine on the power of a plain old nasty slider. Lincecum wasn’t as sharp — he allowed nine men to reach base — but it was his defense that betrayed him. A Miguel Tejada error allowed Matt Kemp to advance to third in the sixth inning and then an ill-advised and poorly-executed pickoff attempt by Buster Posey allowed Kemp to score, breaking a scoreless tie. The Dodgers added insurance in the bottom of the eighth when Kemp — who had stolen second base — scored on a James Loney double off Santiago Casilla. A tough-luck loss for Lincecum, who didn’t allow an earned run, but a dominant performance by Kershaw who served notice that the matter of who is the best starter in the NL West is far from settled.

Friday brings us 11 more games and, weather permitting, all 30 teams will have broken the seal on their 2011 season by the time the day is done.  Here’s hoping the action matches or exceeds today’s level of entertainment.

  1. Innocent Bystander - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:18 PM

    Is this our “And that Happened” column for the day? Not complaining…just want to know what to expect tomorrow.

    Agree that it was a great first day. Welcome back, Baseball.

    • Ari Collins - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:22 PM

      It had better not be. “And That Happened” is the reason I follow this blog, going back to the Shysterball days. I’m up early tomorrow and I want my Christmas-like blog present.

  2. Old Gator - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    “… and Jonathan Axford, who gave up four ninth inning runs on two hits and a walk.”

    Uh huh. Craig, I know it’s late, but next time you need to do the math, use that little Texas Instruments pocket calculator over on the far right side of your desk, under the crumpled Whopper wrappers, OK?

    • Ari Collins - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:25 PM

      I think that’s right. There was an error.

  3. Craig Calcaterra - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:27 PM

    This is NOT a substitute for And That Happened. ATH will appear, as usual, tomorrow morning, bright and early. I merely did this post because the folks at NBC wanted something to feature in their overnight end-of-opening day recap package or something and I am nothing if not a good solider.

    ATH will be up before you’re awake. Most of you anyway.

    • Innocent Bystander - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:29 PM

      Woo hoo! I can now sleep with visions of ATH in my dreams!!!

      • Old Gator - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:32 PM

        I’ll be happy if the pilot light on the water heater doesn’t crap out again. I just want hot water in the shower. It’s hard to appreciate ATH when you’re busy cursing the fates.

    • cktai - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:52 AM

      I am sorely disappointed at waking up to no ATH :(

  4. sebaker - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    A highlight of opening day for me was the color commentary on ESPN … Bobby V and Orel Hershiser were engrossing …

  5. Ryan Lansing - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:15 AM

    According to the Brewers’ radio broadcast, McGehee’s “missed tag” my have been the result of the runner (I think Brandon Philips?) running out of the baseline and not being called for it. Haven’t seen a replay but there was quite a bit of arguing from the Brewers side. Axford is ultimately to blame for the loss, though.

    • Jeremiah Graves - Apr 1, 2011 at 10:33 AM

      If there was a play in that game for the Brew-Crew fans to be annoyed with it was the Kotsay “no catch” that looked legit from every angle I saw.

  6. APBA Guy - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:46 AM

    Oakland A’s baseball 4/1; Trevor Cahill vs. King Felix. We may have to wait a day to get excited.

  7. Paul White - Apr 1, 2011 at 7:55 AM

    You’re giving really, really short shrift to the Royals. They don’t deserve a ton of shrift, certainly, but mentioning only Melky and Frenchy to the exclusion of three rookie relievers each making their major league debuts and combining for a line of 3.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K seems a bit short-sighted to me. With KC, it’s all about rookies this year, and in that regard they got precisely what they were hoping for. That deserves a mention, no?

    • Ari Collins - Apr 1, 2011 at 8:39 AM

      Rob Neyer’s article is quite shriftful, focusing on those three rookie relievers: http://mlb.sbnation.com/2011/3/31/2083995/embracing-the-beauty-of-the-unlikely

  8. Jonny 5 - Apr 1, 2011 at 8:14 AM

    I’d say opening day in Philly is to viewed as “tenative at best” at this point as the gods have decided to drop slush from the heavens today.

  9. Jeremiah Graves - Apr 1, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    “For the Angels, it all went according to plan, with Torii Hunter and Jeff Mathis homering…”

    If relying on Jeff Mathis to rip home runs is the Angels’ “plan” it’s going to be a long season in Los Angeles or Anaheim or Orange County wherever those cats call home nowadays…

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