Even though Opening Day was over three months ago, it’s still burned into my mind. Time moves quickly, for one reason, (is it really July 12 already?) and it’s not easy to forget a game like that. When you sit in the freezing cold for 16 innings, for a game you thought the Indians had in the bag going into the ninth inning, it sticks with you. Justin Masterson pitched a gem, but Chris Perez blew the save as the Blue Jays tied the game and sent it into extras where the Indians lost 7-4. As I’m sure we all remember, Sunday was the first blown save from Perez since that cold day in April. He had successfully converted 24 straight saves before the loss to the Rays last weekend.
So as I’m sitting around antsy about the lack of baseball over the past two days, I started to think about this weekend’s series in Toronto. I’m actually heading up there this weekend, and have tickets to tomorrow night’s game; I like to think of it as Opening Day for the second half. Then I got to thinking – to kick off the second half, the Indians are playing the Blue Jays, just as they did on Opening Day in April. When I looked at the pitchers, I realized it was Justin Masterson vs. Ricky Romero, the exact same pitching match-up. This seemed somewhat rare to me. How often do the same two teams face off on Opening Day, and the first game after the All-Star break? How often do the same two pitchers end up starting both games? Has this ever happened to the Indians before?
The answer: Never. This has never happened to the Indians before.
I looked at every season since the All Star Game started in 1933, with the exception of the 1945 season (no All Star Game due to World War II), and the 1959-1962 seasons since there were two All Star Games each of those years (it wasn’t the traditional format). While there are six occasions in which the Indians and their Opening Day opponent squared off in the first game after the All Star break, none of those seasons saw the same pitching match-up.
Here’s the breakdown:
2005 – Opening Day, April 4 in Chicago, White Sox win 1-0. Starting pitchers, Jake Westbrook (Indians) vs. Mark Buehrle (White Sox). Post All Star, July 14 in Cleveland, White Sox win 1-0. Starting pitchers, Jose Contreras (Sox) vs. Kevin Millwood (Indians). While the score was exactly the same in both games, the starting pitchers were different.
1984 – Opening Day, April 3 in Texas, Indians win 9-1. Starting pitchers, Rick Sutcliffe (Indians) vs. Charlie Hough (Rangers). Post All Star, July 12 in Texas, Rangers win 7-2. Starting pitchers, Charlie Hough (Texas) vs. Neal Heaton (Indians). Hough pitched in both games, but the Indians had different starters.
1981 – Opening Day, April 11 in Cleveland, Brewers win 5-3. Starting pitchers, Bert Blyleven (Indians) vs. Mike Caldwell (Brewers). Post All Star, August 10 in Cleveland, Brewers win 5-2. Starting pitchers, Pete Vuckovich (Brewers) vs. Bert Blyleven (Indians). The 1981 season was unique due to the work stoppage. The All Star Game was actually held on August 9 and 706 total games were missed that season due to the strike.
1977 – Opening Day, April 7 in Boston, Indians win 5-4. Starting pitchers, Dennis Eckersley (Indians) vs. Ferguson Jenkins (Red Sox). Post All Star, July 21 in Boston, Red Sox win 11-4. Starting pitchers, Luis Tiant (Red Sox) vs. Wayne Garland (Indians).
1938 – Opening Day, April 19 at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, St. Louis Browns win 6-2. Starting pitchers, Bobo Newsome (Browns) vs. Johnny Allen (Indians). Post All Star, July 8 at League Park in Cleveland, Indians win 8-7. Starting pitchers, Earl Whitehill (Indians) vs. Oral Hildebrand (Browns).
1937 – Opening Day, April 20 at Navin Field in Detroit, Tigers win 4-3. Starting pitchers, Mel Harder (Indians) vs. Elden Auker (Tigers). Post All Star, July 9 at Navin Field, Tigers win 10-8. Starting pitchers, Willis Hudin (Indians) vs. Elden Auker (Tigers). Auker pitched in both games, but the Indians used different starters.
So while this may be a somewhat trivial fact, I still think it’s pretty cool that the Indians have never started the second half of the season against the same team, and with both starting pitchers, as they did on Opening Day.
I also decided to look at the starting lineups of both teams from Opening Day, to see how they match-up with what is likely to be tomorrow night’s lineup. There are some seasons when you sit back mid-year, and think about how many changes there were since April either due to injury, trades, players being released, etc.
Opening Day Indians starting rotation: Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin, Derek Lowe, Jeanmar Gomez
Second half rotation: Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin, Derek Lowe, Zach McAllister
Even though Tomlin spent some time on the DL, the only major difference is the McAllister for Gomez swap.
Opening Day Indians bullpen: Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Rafael Perez, Dan Wheeler, Jairo Asencio
Second half bullpen: Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Jeremy Accardo, Esmil Rogers, Scott Barnes
Rafael Perez has spent much of the season on the DL, but may be back in the near future. Wheeler and Asencio were pretty terrible, and you also had Nick Hagadone in there for a while (how could we forget, after last weekend’s antics).
Opening Day Indians lineup and offensive reserves: Lineup – Michael Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner, Shelley Duncan, Casey Kotchman, Jason Kipnis, Jack Hannahan. Reserves – Lou Marson, Aaron Cunningham, Jason Donald and Jose Lopez
Second half lineup and offensive reserves: (I went with last Sunday’s lineup since tomorrow’s has yet to be officially announced) – Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Travis Hafner, Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Casey Kotchman, Jose Lopez, Johnny Damon. Reserves – Lou Marson, Aaron Cunningham, Shelley Duncan, and Jack Hannahan.
Even though there has been some reconfiguration to the lineup (Choo batting leadoff, Kipnis moving up to the three spot), this is very similar to the Opening Day lineup. The only real difference is the addition of Damon, which obviously meant that Donald went down to Columbus. There have been injuries to Hafner, Hannahan and Santana, but otherwise it’s been relatively stable.
Blue Jays Opening Day lineup: Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Eric Thames, J.P. Arencibia, and Colby Rasmus. Offensive reserves – Rajai Davis, Omar Vizquel, Ben Francisco, Mike McCoy, and Jeff Mathis. Starting rotation – Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Joel Carreno, Henderson Alvarez, and Kyle Drabek. Bullpen – Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, Jason Frasor, Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen, Carlos Villenueva, Luis Perez.
Toronto has been hit hard by injuries this season, particularly when it comes to the pitching staff. Kyle Drabek, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, and Sergio Santos are all on the 60-day DL. Offensively, their lineup is probably similar.
Just one more day folks, and baseball will be back. All will be right with the world, and I can stop twitching and researching bizarre facts!