MLB’s quadrennial miniseries in the Tokyo Dome ushered in another championship season and ended the soul-crushing 5-month box-score drought. When Brandon McCarthy put the first pitch over, and Chone Figgins bounced out to short on the next offering, we felt at once the comfort that baseball was back, same as it ever was.
Seattle beat Oakland 3-1 in 11 innings, capturing their 6th straight opener, thanks in large part — as usual in these circumstances — to Felix Hernandez, who held the A’s to a lone tally over 8 frames. It’s the 3rd time since 2007 that he’s gone 8+ IP on Opening Day; all other pitchers have combined for 4 such OD starts in that span.
Let’s see if we can get a salad out of these first numeric fruits:
- It’s King Felix on Opening Day for sure: 5 starts, all QS, totaling 39.2 IP, 6 runs on 21 hits, 11 walks and 33 Ks. The 5 hits he allowed this time matched his OD high.
For McCarthy (7 IP, 1 R), not winning a game like this was deja vu all over again. Last year, in 10 starts allowing 2 runs or less in 6+ IP, he went 5-3 with 2 no-decisions.
- McCarthy’s 4.92 SO/BB ratio last year ranked 4th among qualifiers. The rest of the top 10 in that category, which includes both 2011 CYA winners and 3 former winners, went a combined 152-69, winning 54% of their starts. McCarthy went 9-9, winning 36% of his starts.
In 11 Opening Day games (he missed 2009), Ichiro is now 17 for 47 (.362) — all singles.
- There were no walks in the 11-inning contest. The last game in which both teams pitched 10+ innings with no free passes was a 2002 affair between Seattle and Toronto.
In the past 6 years, the Mariners have been last in the AL in walks drawn 4 times and next-to-last in the others; the same goes for OBP. In that span, compared to the league leaders in hits and walks, Seattle has averaged -168 hits and -241 walks. Last year, when drawing 2 walks or fewer, they went 26-61; with 3 or more BBs, they were 41-34.
- With 9 hits in 11 innings, Seattle continued a worrisome trend from last year, when they had fewer hits than innings played in 101 games, the most of any team in either league. Their 9-for-39 showing in the 2012 opener computes to a .231 average, almost matching 2011’s grisly .233. (And before you cry “park factor!”, know that the 2011 M’s were also last in OPS+ at 82.)
In his first official game of North American(?) professional baseball, Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes had a double and a HBP in 4 trips, striking out the other 2 times. Jesus Montero, the DH, went 0-4 in his first game for Seattle, but put the ball in play each time.
- Collin Cowgill, acquired in the Trevor Cahill trade, made his first A’s appearance as a pinch-runner in the last of the 10th — and was promptly caught stealing. As of now, Cowgill is just the 2nd player in AL history with no PAs but 1 or more CS. (He just needs 17 more CS to pass Herb Washington….)
Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen got the win with 2 perfect innings. The 28-year-old almost lost his career to marijuana (and our peculiar policies about it), but made it to the majors last year and had a 3.31 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 33 IP.
- The attendance of 44,227 was the largest for an A’s “home” game since their last game in the Tokyo Dome, four years ago. The seating capacity of Oakland’s Coliseum was reduced to about 36,000 back in 2006.
OK, who’s up next?