Is there anything in baseball more overrated than September statistics? How many times do you hear about guys ‘finishing the season strong’ which leads everyone and their little sister to then predict a stellar season the next year for the player in question. Oh, the cliches – ‘he’s turned a corner’, ‘he knows what it takes to win now’, etc. It’s unfair to give up on a pitcher’s ‘breakout season’ based on his first, very brief appearance in said season. So I won’t – yet. Here’s the thing, though, and there’s really no way around this – God is a fair guy. He doesn’t give one guy everything. Some guys get a lot of gifts (think Brad Pitt or Derek Jeter or Andre 3000), but for most of us, our existence as men is a constant battle between things we’re good at and things…well, not so much. When God gave the world AJ Burnett, he gave him a one-in-several-millions arm. I have a sinking suspicion that he didn’t give him much heart, though.
But, to the game itself…
Burnett did earn us 6 tough outs, though (see…I’m looking at the positives, too). If Shaun Marcum could have gotten Curtis Granderson (though no one else on our team seems to be able to, so why should he?) for the third out of the inning, one has to believe the Jays would have still been in the game. As it is, the Jays rallied from a 9-0 deficit (including 8 runs in the fateful third inning) only to lose the game 10-9. Yet another Toronto Blue Jay ‘moral victory’ (which, I believe makes the total 2229090938 for the last 13 years.) The relief corps was good again, generally after the 3rd and the bats did come to life, but ultimately when your big #2 comes out after a big opening day win and gives you, well, a big pile of #2, it’s difficult to overcome against a good team like the Tigers. Hopefully, Mr. Burnett will oblige us with a more spirited effort Monday night for the home opener. After all, the building is air-conditioned, so perhaps the darned cold weather and yucky wetness won’t upset him so much. If the conditions are just right, Mr. Burnett might even furnish us with 4 or 5 innings of work. Dare to dream.
THE GOOD: A 7 run top of the 8th to pull the Jays within 1 run after trailing 9 to 0 in the fourth.
THE BAD: In that 7th, with Fernando Rodney reeling and Vernon Wells on 2nd representing the tying run and only one out, 4 and 5 hitters Frank Thomas and Troy Glaus fail to take advantage, leaving the bottom of the order to unsuccesfully try to tie it in the 9th against closer Todd Jones.
THE UGLY: Anytime you have your ‘second ace’ who actually walks twice as many men as innings pitched, it’s not going to end up pretty. I worry less and less about Mrs. Burnett opting out of her contract after next season. It looks like she’ll think it’s a pretty sweet deal, likely averaging more than a million dollars a win for ’09 and ’10. Suddenly, Gil Meche looks like the deal.
GAME RATING: B+ – not exactly the type of poetic beauty Ring Lardner would have rhapsodized over, but a fairly eventful late inning rally makes for much more drama and intrigue than many, though the moral victories hardly satiate frustrated Toronto fans at this point.
…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.