Opening Day didn’t end up to be quite the celebration we were hoping for. A game that looked for several innings like a solid victory ended up to a grueling, agonizing, and ultimately heartbreaking 16-inning monstrosity that lasted more than five hours as the Toronto Blue Jays earned a hard-fought 7-4 victory at Progressive Field.
Things started off great as Cleveland starter Justin Masterson struck out the side in the top of the first. The Indians almost batted around in the second as they opened up a 4-0 lead, the rally capped by Jack Hannahan’s three-run homer.
Jose Bautista put the Blue Jays on the board with a solo shot in the top of the fourth, but the scoring on both sides dried up shortly after. The score still stood 4-1 when Masterson handed the ball to closer Chris Perez in the top of the ninth; seven batters later, it was 4-4 and Toronto had the go-ahead run in scoring position.
What followed over the next seven innings can only be described as torture. The Indians threatened in the ninth and 12th while the Blue Jays gave Tribe fans heart palpitations in the 10th, 12th, and 15th (those inning numbers look ridiculous) before J.P. Arencibia finally broke the stalemate with a three-run shot off Jairo Asencio in the top of the 16th.
The Indians had no answer in the bottom of the 16th as Jason Donald, Casey Kotchman, and Jason Kipnis all grounded out in plays that earned putouts for Toronto first baseman Omar Vizquel (that also looks weird) and the Blue Jays held on for a 7-4 win. (In order to get a true sense of the agony that was watching this game, check out the narrative of our staff’s Twitter reactions.)
The Good: Justin Masterson. Talk about getting off to a good start: Masterson threw eight innings of two-hit ball, allowing only one run (Bautista’s homer) and a walk while racking up 10 strikeouts—including double-dips against Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Arencibia—and inducing 10 groundouts. That he didn’t get the win is nothing short of an injustice.
Props are also due to Jack Hannahan, who had his second straight huge Opening Day, going 2-for-6 with that three-run homer and led position players on both teams with a .296 WPA—not to mention some great plays he made at third base.
The Bad: Chris Perez. We’ve already looked at why he might be in for a rough season, but yeesh—he looked awful out there. It became apparent almost immediately that he didn’t have any semblance of his usual command, and much as I shuddered to think it the way he was throwing made it seem as though his blowing the lead was inevitable. It’s only one game and everyone has bad days, but you can’t have your closer let five of the seven batters he faces reach base. As our own Katie Hendershot tweeted from the bleachers around the 14th inning:
Jairo Asencio didn’t have a great night either, but his meltdown came in his third inning of work. Another more general area of concern: the Indians were shut out for 14 straight innings (from the third to the 16th).
The “Huh?”: In the bottom of the 15th, Blue Jays reliever Luis Perez fired a pitch that made a beeline for Shin-Soo Choo‘s head. It was the second time that Choo had been beaned that game, and after recovering from the shock of his brush with mortality he started towards Perez, who was gesturing belligerently.
Here’s what I don’t get: Why did Perez react confrontationally after almost drilling Choo in the skull instead of…I don’t know, remorse? Perhaps he thought Choo was overreacting to a mistake pitch, but even so his anger was certainly justified. It seems like basic human decency to show contrition after something like that. Maybe an apology is too much to ask (though it shouldn’t be), but at least don’t make the situation worse.