As it was in the end, so it shall be in the beginning: The Rays walked off winners against the Yankees today, putting themselves six games ahead of last year’s pace. Carlos Pena celebrated his return to the Trop by bookending the pinstripe aces, with a “take-that!” slam off Sabathia in the 1st and a sacks-full bingle in the 9th off Mariano Rivera.
Watch our great game long enough and you’re liable to see just about everything, even an Opening Day Mo-blow. This was the 16th year that Rivera was available to pitch in the opener (he was hurt in April 2003 and was a May callup in ’95), the 6th time he’s gotten into the game, the 4th time he’s had a save chance, and the first time he blew the save. It’s also the first time the Bombers lost when he pitched in the opener.
- The last time Mariano allowed an Opening Day run, or even a hit, was in 2000. Why, that’s so long ago, the Angels still played in Anaheim….
- Today’s game snapped his streak of 27 straight saves converted against the Rays, dating back to August 16, 2005 — and that was the only save he’d ever blown against them in 61 tries.
- The 2 intentional walks Mo gave today matched his total for all of last year. It’s just the second time he’s ever issued back-to-back IBBs — and the last time, he actually worked out of it.
- Number of times per year that Mariano allowed 5+ baserunners in a game, going back through the past 6 years: 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1.
- Number of times he’d ever done it while getting 1 out or less: 1.
What else, what else….
– How many years can a reliever hang on while posting an ERA that starts with “4”? Rays’ winning pitcher Fernando Rodney has a 5-year streak going. Of the 318 active pitchers with 30+ games each of the last 5 years, Rodney is the only one who hasn’t had a single sub-4 ERA. Yet the Rays signed him for a guaranteed $2 million this year … and he set down the Yankees 1-2-3 in the 9th.
– David Robertson, who hasn’t allowed a run since last August, worked out of his own no-out, 3rd-and-1st jam in the 8th by fanning the side, with a little help from Jose Molina‘s 2-strike foul squeeze attempt.
- There are three ways to strike out — swinging, looking, and bunting — and Robertson notched one of each in the 8th inning. I am not counting as a separate category “batter abandons attempt to hit,” a la John Kruk vs. Randy Johnson, but Robertson may rack up some of those before he’s done. When his breaking ball is on, he’s untouchable.
– With 3 hits and 2 walks, Evan Longoria reached in all 5 trips, a personal first.
– Ben Zobrist who tied the game with a triple in the 9th, started in RF, then moved to 2B in the 8th. It’s the 55th time he’s played OF and 2B in the same game. The unofficial record is 76, by … can you guess?
In other games:
– Carlos Beltran is one of those modern hitters who rarely swing on 3-0; he had just 29 career ABs resolved on a 3-0 count. Until today, when he tied the game in the 3rd with a 3-and-0 bomb that touched off the Cardinals’ 4-HR barrage off Yovani Gallardo. that sent the St. Louis Orphans to an 11-5 win. Matt Holliday hit the next pitch out to left (he’s connected in three straight regular-season games off the Brewers’ ace), and after a walk, David Freese banged the 3rd tater of the inning.
- Counting last year’s postseason (he was MVP of both the NLCS and the WS), Freese has 26 RBI in his last 20 games, batting .411 with 6 HRs and .7895 SLG.
- The last time STL hit 4 rountrippers in a regular-season game was last Sept. 1, also off Gallardo; those are the only times Gallardo has ever allowed more than 2 HRs.
– Jake Arrieta matched a personal best with 7 scoreless innings and Nick Markakis drove in 3 with a HR and triple as Baltimore doubled up Minnesota, 4-2. Markakis is trying to reverse a 3-year slide in slugging that reached a career low .406 last year. Brian Roberts was not in the Opening Day lineup for the first time since 2003.
- Jim Johnson, the AL’s most valuable reliever outside of the Bronx last year, earned the save. Johnson converted all 7 September save tries scorelessly after unofficially inheriting the job from Kevin Gregg, and finished with 3.2 WAR and a 2.67 ERA in 91 IP.
– Play-by-play head-scratcher: ESPN’s account of Rockies @ Astros says that Eric Young stole second base and scored on the catcher’s throwing error. Come again? The pitch-by-pitch clears it up: The steal and the error were separate plays. Young induced the error with a sweet deke on catcher Jason Castro: he went halfway on a pitch in the dirt but stopped and leaned back toward 2B, provoking the rookie’s throw, then spun on a dime and broke for third. When the throw sailed into CF, Young scored the go-ahead run standing up. That’s a nice game impact for a pinch-runner.
- It’s also the first time @EYJr has ever scored as a PR; in his 8 prior games in that role, he swiped 3 bags in 4 tries, but was always stranded.
– It only took Adam Dunn three trips to the plate to fill out his first Three-True-Outcomes Bingo card, but Michael Young broke the 6th-inning tie by singling in Josh Hamilton, and the Rangers began their second AL title defense with a 3-2 win over the visiting White Sox.
- Since 2004, Young has more RBI in games without an extra-base hit than anyone else. (He’s 16th overall in RBI in that span, and 36th in RBI in games with an XBH.)
- Last year, it took until Tax Day for Dunn’s first TTO game.
- Last year, KC rookie relievers Aaron Crow and Greg Holland didn’t allow a run over their first 13 games (15.1 IP) and 9 games (12.2 IP), respectively. Tonight, Crow fanned the side in the 7th (including Pujols on 3 pitches), but in the 8th they combined to allow 5 runs on 6 hits.
- Mark Trumbo’s Hot Corner Extravaganza got off to a rocky start with a pair of errors. There are wags who say that a workplace with an average employee salary of $3.4 million is no place for on-the-job training, and Trumbo’s entire professional experience at third base came this spring training. But since these forced 3B conversions usually go so well — think Dave Kingman — why worry?
What did you see?