Toronto Blue Jays Win Big Playing Small Ball in Home Opener

Justin BoninAnalyst IApril 2, 2011

DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Outfielder Rajai Davis #11 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs to first base against the Detroit Tigers February 26, 2011 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Blue Jays' home opener started big with Jose Bautista receiving his Silver Slugger award from last season. Then, the pre-game activities were even bigger, as Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick were on hand to see their Hall of Fame banners unveiled in the rafters before they teamed up to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the season.

To make things even better, the night ended very big for the Jays as well, as they pulled off a 13-3 shellacking of the Minnesota Twins in front of their home fans.

They were carried by some solid pitching from Ricky Romero, as he picked up the win in 6.1 innings pitched, allowing only three runs and striking out seven.

However, if you rewind back to the first inning, it becomes quite clear that the Jays won this game because they did the little things well right from the beginning. 

All it took was one game—actually, one inning—for this year’s Blue Jays team to convince me that they will have a far more versatile offense this season. The spark came in the first inning, as the Jays put up four runs on two hits and some smart, heads-up baserunning, highlighted by a beautiful double-steal and a sneaky play by Adam Lind.

I know it’s really early to be saying things like, “If the Jays continue like this...” or, "If the Jays keep this up...” 

But I’m going to do it anyway.

The duo of Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar went a combined 2-for-9, but they more than made up for it with some great baserunning in the first inning that really got things going for the Jays. 

First, Rajai Davis showed some hustle as he ran out a very hard-hit grounder to Twins shortstop Alexi Casella for a base hit. Once on base, he got caught in a rundown, but skilfully managed to maneuver his way out of trouble and stay safe at first.

This was crucial for the big four-run outburst the Jays had in the first inning. 

The next batter, Yunel Escobar, singled, and then the duo came up with a masterful double-steal getting themselves both into scoring position for none other than the reigning home run king and Silver Slugger award-winner Jose Bautista. 

Bautista would not put one over the fence just yet, as he ended up being walked by Carl Pavano (coming off a fourth ball, which, in my opinion, was way too far up and inside, especially considering the fact that everyone knew he would pitch around Jose with first base open). 

Following the near “sweet chin music” on Bautista, Carl Pavano walked in the Jays' first run of the season when he hit Adam Lind with a pitch.

Fortunately, Adam Lind got some revenge on the next play via some additional crafty Blue Jays baserunning.

Lind sneakily advanced to second on an Aaron Hill sac fly to center field that scored Yunel Escobar and put the Jays up by two. In doing so, Lind proved that Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar are not the only ones capable of turning some heads on the basepaths.

The team’s solid baserunning in the first inning tells me that all the Jays are buying into the new small-ball game plan for this season. In addition, it is clear that they are all on the same page—just look at the way Bautista (on 3B at the time) was communicating with Lind, who had just advanced to second. 

Therefore, fellow Jays fans, we are certainly in store for quite the show on the basepaths this season. So sit back and enjoy it, because judging by the four home runs the Jays also managed to hit, it seems like they will be a legit double-threat this season on offense.

As a result, they will be able to put up more than enough run support to keep the young Toronto pitching staff relaxed and comfortable, which means they will be able to go out there and just pitch like they know they can with little to no pressure!

Great home opening win. Let’s go Jays!