…and so it begins.
Amidst a quiet groundswell of enthusiasm and a rather uneventful spring, the Toronto Blue Jays begin their 2007 campaign in Motown against the defending AL champion Tigers. Everything seems in order for the Jays, who would consider themselves relatively healthy, save for would-be set-up man Brandon League, who just can’t seem to put it together at the right time and will rent in Syracuse for the foreseeable future. The same can’t be said for the Tigers, who just days before the opener found out that their winningest pitcher in 2006, veteran southpaw Kenny Rogers, will be out at least 3 months after having a bloodclot surgically removed from his pitching arm. Rogers’ injury aside, the series’ pitching matchups still likely favour Detroit in the next two days, so today is a must-win for Toronto.
Everything starts relatively well – a 3 run first inning off of ‘soon-to-be-Cy-Young-winner’ Jeremy Bonderman, the Tigers’ opening day starter that included two (yes,count ’em two) stolen bases off of perennial gold glove winner Pudge Rodriguez. The Cats edge their way back through the middle innings, courtesy of an Aaron Hill error and some clutch hitting from Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco. (One honestly wonders why Roy Halladay ever throws a curveball with a 2 strike count…)
Despite dead bats and not scoring for the next 8 innings, the Jays manage to stay tied with the Bengals through 9 thanks to some terrific bullpen work from Casey Janssen and Jason Frasor and in the 10th manage to load the bases against Fernando Rodney, who, with one out, unforgivably throws 3 straight changeups to Troy Glaus with the sacks drunk. Glaus hammers the third one for the game winning single, Rios grounds out an insurance run and BJ Ryan pitches a less-than-perfect 10th that still counts as a save. A good game to win in what would have been a very tough game to lose.
THE GOOD : The bullpen. Casey Janssen throws only 25 pitches and faces the minimum over 2 1?3 innings to eliminate any momentum Detroit was feeling after seeing Halladay exit after 6 innings.
THE BAD: The Wind in left field. Troy Glaus and Reed Johnson (especially) are robbed of late inning 2
run homeruns by a blustering wind coming in from left field, making OF Craig Monroe look like Willie Mays, instead of Ivan Calderon (who he normally resembles defensively out there.)
THE UGLY: The two strike curveball. Halladay insists on hanging two strike curveballs and gets punished for it, with most of the Tigers’ damage done against him done with two strikes and Halladay ahead in the count.
GAME RATING: A-. A very interesting, strategic game that was a great example of why opening day is important. Both managers played it as if it were Game 6 of the World Series, with Gibbons actually out managing his more experienced opponent Jim Leyland.