Cleveland Indians Opening Day: Toronto Blue Jays Outlast Tribe in 16 Innings
It took five hours and 14 minutes, but after 16 innings of play at Progressive Field in Cleveland, the Toronto Blue Jays prevailed, 7-4, in the longest Opening Day game in major-league history.
Things started off shaky for the Blue Jays, as Ricky Romero surrendered four runs in the second inning courtesy of a Casey Kotchman fielder's choice and a Jack Hannahan three-run home run.
The Blue Jays came within three runs in the fourth inning, when Jose Bautista sent a Justin Masterson pitch over the fence in the fourth for his first home run of the season. The home run was Masterson's only blemish on the afternoon, as he pitched eight innings, surrendering only two hits and one walk, as well as striking out 10 batters.
Ricky Romero, the Blue Jay ace, pitched three scoreless innings after the four runs in the second, but was pulled after throwing 96 pitches through five innings. The Toronto bullpen, which—after blowing 25 saves in 58 opportunities last season—was a question mark coming into this season for the up-and-coming Blue Jays, pitched 11 scoreless innings in the victory.
After a Bautista sacrifice fly scored shortstop Yunel Escobar, the Blue Jays tied the game in the top of the ninth inning, when designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion hit a deep fly ball to left field with two men on base. The ball was hit well and seemed destined to be a home run, but the heavy winds in Cleveland kept it from sailing over the left-field wall, leading to a two-run double instead.
Little did Encarnacion or the rest of the Blue Jays know that after being mere inches away from taking the lead, they would need an additional seven innings to decide a winner.
Both the Blue Jays' and Indians' relief pitchers were unshakable in extra innings, although the Indians twice had the opportunity to win the game with runners in scoring position.
The turning point in extra innings may have come in the bottom of the 12th inning, when Toronto manager John Farrell substituted Omar Vizquel for Eric Thames and utilized him as an unconventional fifth infielder when the Indians had men on first and third base with only one out. Moments later, Asdrubal Cabrera swung at Luis Perez's first pitch, and the Blue Jays were in perfect position to turn an easy double play to end the inning.
In the top of the 16th inning, the Blue Jays finally broke the deadlock when a Brett Lawrie walk and great base running led to J.P. Arencibia at the plate with no men out. Arencibia, who had homered on Opening Day in each of the past two seasons, launched a three-run shot to left field, which ultimately proved to be the deciding runs in the victory.
Luis Perez (1-0) picked up the win for the Blue Jays in relief, while Jairo Asencio (0-1) is credited with the loss.
Luckily for the Blue Jays and Indians, they have the day off on Friday, and the series resumes on Saturday, when Brandon Morrow squares off against Ubaldo Jimenez at 1:05 p.m.
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