Friday April 1, 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen... BASEBALL IS BACK!!
Even though this will be posted a few days late, what a game for the Blue Jays on opening night!
The Blue Jays opened their season at home tonight against the Minnesota Twins, pounding the Twinkies into submission with a 13 - 3 route.
Rajai Davis led off the first inning with a hard grounder to Twins shortstop Alexi Casilla. Casilla fielded the ball cleanly and fired to first base but Davis beat the throw for an infield single. Man can this guy run. I've always liked him as a player and was excited when the Blue Jays brought him in, but after seeing him on Wednesday in a televised spring training game against Tampa, then again tonight on opening night, Jays fans have reason to be excited about the new running game that Farrell said he wants to add to the 2011 Jays offensive arsenal. However Rajai wasn't done showing off his speed yet. Davis was thinking two bases and wandered just a little far from the bag when Pavano turned and threw to first catching Rajai in a rundown. Rajai should have been out, but after a little back and forth Davis accelerated and committed back to first base diving in safely under a stretching Pavano who had to reach to catch the high throw back to him.
The next batter was Yunel Escobar who singled to left field on the first pitch moving Davis over to second. That brought up Jose Bautista, and on the first pitch to him, Davis and Escobar both took off and executed a double steal. Something we would not have seen last year. Pavano walked Bautista, loading the bases with nobody out for Adam Lind. Pavano hit him, walking in the first run of the game, and the season for the Jays. Aaron Hill and Edwin Encarnacion each hit a sac fly to bring in the next two runs, followed by a base hit from Travis Snider that got away from Twins new second basemen Tsuyoshi Nishioka to bring in a fourth run.
Four runs in the first inning and not one home run. Welcome to the new version of Blue Jays baseball. Don't worry though, the old brand is still alive and kicking. In the fifth inning, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind treated the sold out crowd at Rogers Centre to back to back homers. Baustista's bomb going to deep left centre, and Lind's to deep right.
But as far as the long balls go, the story tonight was JP Arencibia. After having a terrible spring at the plate while working primarily on his defensive game, Arencibia started his season off with a bang. Well, two bangs and a triple actually. The first one to deep centre field coming in the fourth inning with Travis Snider on board. Then in the fifth inning he almost went deep again. This time JP hit one off the wall in centre field that went for a triple, scoring both Travis Snider and Juan Rivera. In the eighth inning, he did go deep again to right field. JP finished the night going 3 for 4 with 5 RBI and two pies to the face. If you count a load of shaving cream in a towel as a pie of course.
Not to be lost in the 13 run assault was the outstanding performance from Ricky Romero in his first career opening day start. Romero threw 6 and a third innings, giving up one earned run on seven hits, striking out seven, and walking nobody! A great outing for Romero.
Minnesota's three runs all came in the seventh inning. Young scored on a throwing error from Edwin Encarnacion. Kubel scored on a double from Alexi Casilla, who then scored on a Denard Span's groundout.
It was very nice to see Canadian Justin Morneau back in Minnesota's lineup tonight for the first time since suffering a concussion in Toronto back on July 7 of last year. Morneau ended the night going 0 for 4, but belting one ball back to the warning track in right field. It may not have been his best game, but it is great to see him playing again regardless.
I think this 2011 Blue Jays club is going to be a very exciting one to watch. I mentioned earlier the televised spring training game against Tampa Bay on Wednesday. In the first inning of that game, Davis got on first base, then took off for second on the first pitch to Yunel Escobar. Escobar hit a double play ball, but by the time it was fielded Davis was a step past second base on his way to third already. The only play was at first base, which they bobbled. All of the sudden the Jays had runners on first and third with nobody out, on what should have been a double play. We haven't seen that brand of baseball here in a long time. I'm really not worried about where the runs will come from this year. I think this team can manufacture runs. If the pitching holds up, I really think they finish ahead of an improved Baltimore team, and a Tampa Bay team that saw some of their stars and almost their entire bullpen leave this offseason.
My official prediction for the Blue Jays this season is 85 to 87 wins. Having said that, if they win 90 it won't surprise me at all. Yes, I really did just write that.
Tomorrow young Kyle Drabek takes the ball for his 2011 debut looking for his first big league win. The twins counter with Francisco Liriano. First pitch at 1:07 in front of hopefully at least 35000 to follow up tonight's capacity crowd.