So I wrote this post the other day about how I never have a good experience on Opening Day. I’m proud to say that the streak stays alive! This afternoon when I was waiting for the game to start, I had this post planned about the magic of Opening Day (even if the Indians lost). I have pictures on my camera of the balloons being released before the game, of Omar Vizquel tipping his cap to the crowd in pre-game introductions; I wanted to share those pictures and talk about the fact that I even like to see folks like the assistant trainer and clubhouse manager introduced before the starting 9. That was before I sat outside in the freezing cold for over 5 hours, watching an absolutely dreadful game unfold. I have no desire to share pictures, or talk about anything warm and fuzzy. It was an historic game for several reasons – largest attendance for a home opener at Progressive Field, and the longest opening day game in major league history. To go with this “historic” theme, I also have an historic level of anger and frustration right now.
Where do I even begin? Why don’t I start at the point that the train really went off the rails. Heading into the 9th inning, I was feeling pretty good. It was sunny, I was still relatively warm (I took a lot of warm clothes) and the Tribe was up by 3. Justin Masterson had pitched an incredible game, and was at 99 pitches after the 8th. I knew it could go either way, but I was really hoping that Masterson got the opportunity to pitch a complete game. He gave up just 2 hits and one earned run, striking out 10. That run was a Jose Bautista home run, so making one mistake to a great hitter isn’t exactly terrible. From the second Chris Perez came into the game, I had a bad feeling. I even turned to my dad and said, “We should just go now and pretend they won 4-1. Then never check to see if it ended otherwise.”
Nevermind the fact that Perez basically had just a week or two of spring training. From the minute he started to pitch, you could see where this was headed. He had no control, he was barely touching 90 mph on the gun…the Indians are lucky he only gave up the three runs, to be honest. The biggest mistake that Acta made, in my opinion, is that he didn’t have anyone even warming up in the bullpen until the game was already tied. It was so obvious that Perez just didn’t have it, yet he just let him stand on the mound and make a fool of himself. When he threw inside and knocked a Toronto batter down, I actually screamed, “Toss him! You issued warnings!” Just hoping and praying that the umpire would make the move for Acta.
So the game is tied, what’s done is done. Vinnie Pestano came in and got out of trouble; he probably should’ve been called upon in the first place if you’re not going to stick with Masterson. He was followed by Joe Smith and Tony Sipp, both of whom did well. To be fair, even Jairo Asencio did well for a few innings; I was really shocked when he was sent out there for a third inning (the 16th). He was able to get out of trouble in the 14th and 15th, but by the 16th his luck had run out and J.P Arencibia (previously 0-6 on the day) took advantage of his mistake.
I’m not even that mad at Asencio, to be honest. Because by that point, the offense had umpteen chances to end this game and choked on every one of them. Honestly, I would still be sitting there, frozen to my seat, if Arencibia hadn’t mercifully ended the game. The Indians scored all of their runs in the second inning and were shut out for the next 14 innings. That’s like being shut out for almost a game and a half. The lineup was without the big bats of Travis Hafner and Shelley Duncan after they were removed for pinch runners, but they still managed to put together opportunities, that they would later blow.
My personal favorite offensive chokes: Hafner makes it to second and Jason Donald enters as a pinch runner in the bottom of the 9th. Aaron Cunningham manages to lay down a nice sacrifice bunt to move him over to third. All Casey Kotchman had to do was hit a ball out of the infield, yet he grounded out to first. I have to say, it’s almost impressive that Kotchman came to the plate seven different times today, yet never got a ball out of the infield. That’s a level of lousy that almost takes some skill. Then in the bottom of the 12th, the bases are loaded with just one out. Now this…this is where the Indians end it in a walk-off. Their big hitters – Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana are coming to the plate. Again, a simple fly ball could even send everyone home happy. Luis Perez was kind of wild for Toronto at that point, he’d already given up a single and walked two. If I’m Asdrubal Cabrera, I make him work for it. I stand there and make him throw the ball over the plate with no room for error. Instead, he swings at the first freaking pitch and grounds into a double play. They almost deserved to lose after that.
I could go on all night about this. In fact, these few things I’ve mentioned made me so mad, I feel like maybe I should just go ahead and start complaining about them a second time for good measure. The bottom line is that this game was poorly managed, and poorly played by almost everyone whose name was not Justin Masterson or Jack Hannahan. I have tickets for Saturday, and I don’t even want to go anymore. What I saw today left me feeling a sense of defeat and surrender that I’ve never really felt on opening day before. This was the kind of game where you snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.
Before my dad left to drive home he said, “So what if you get stuck with another extra inning game on Saturday?” This was my response: “Well, since Jimenez is pitching, I imagine he’ll give up a good 7 or 8 runs before the 4th inning. Dan Wheeler will be sent in for mop-up duty, and he’ll give up another few runs. This offense looks so pathetic, they’ll be lucky to score 2 runs…it will definitely end by 9 innings.”
And THAT is the level of faith that I have in the Indians at this point.