HBT opening day wrapup

16 Comments

There are over 2000 major league baseball games in a season. As such, the outcome of any one of them really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. But we pay greater attention on opening day. Indeed, some of us sat in front of television and computer screens for, oh, 10 straight hours, and that kind of investment justifies a look back. So, opening day: what went down?

Let’s start in the Bronx, where the Yankees took on the Tigers and a guy who wasn’t even supposed to be in the lineup — Curtis Granderson — took center stage. His solo home run in the seventh inning broke a tie and ultimately proved to be the winner, with the Yankees prevailing 6-3.  But Granderson’s defense impressed every bit as much. He made a diving catch in the first inning and an over-the-shoulder grab on the run in the ninth, showing no sign of the injured oblique muscle that made him questionable for opening day until the decision was made to let him play late Wednesday. Otherwise, everything went according to plan for New York, with CC Sabathia making a strong, though by no means dominant start and the bullpen — Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and the great Mariano Rivera — putting any hope of a Tigers comeback out of reach.

The other early start was down I-95 in Washington, where the Braves shut out the Nats, 2-0 behind 5 2/3 innings of three-hit ball from Derek Lowe and more zeros from four relievers. Jason Heyward played in his second major league opening day and hit his second major league opening day home run, a low liner that just cleared the wall in right in the second inning. Of perhaps greater significance: Chipper Jones looked healthy and spry upon his return from last year’s season-ending knee injury.  The Nats: well, they’re the Nats, and they almost always lose on opening day. It’s kind of their thing.

Heroics were the order of the day in Cincinnati where, after an ineffective Edinson Volquez welcomed the Brewers to leads of 3-0 and 4-1, the Reds chipped back, topped off by Ramon Hernandez’s three-run walk-off blast, giving the Reds a 7-6 victory. This is old hat for the Reds, of course, who started last season by notching their first six wins via final at-bat comebacks. For the Brewers it was a bullpen and defensive meltdown courtesy of Casey McGehee, who missed a tag, and Jonathan Axford, who gave up four ninth-inning runs on two hits and a walk.

Continuing our way west we had two games in Missouri, with the Cardinals taking on the Padres and the Royals facing the Angels.

In St. Louis, Albert Pujols did something he has never done before: ground into three double plays on an 0-for-5 day. This, combined with (a) Ryan Franklin blowing the save by surrendering a two-out ninth-inning home run to Cameron Maybin; and (b) a Ryan Theriot error in the 11th, allowing Chase Headley to score what proved to be the winning run, led to a dispiriting 5-3 extra-inning loss for the Cards.

In Kansas City, well, the Royals have a lineup in which it is all but required that Jeff Francoeur (a home run) and Melkey Cabrera (who reached base four times) provide the heroics. For the Angels, it all went according to plan, with Torii Hunter and Jeff Mathis homering and Jered Weaver allowing only two hits in 6 1/3 innings in the Angels’ 4-2 victory.

Opening day ended in Los Angeles, where we were treated to a fantastic pitching duel between Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw that ended in a 2-1 Dodgers victory. Kershaw was sharp, going seven innings, allowing only four hits and striking out nine on the power of a plain old nasty slider. Lincecum wasn’t as sharp — he allowed nine men to reach base — but it was his defense that betrayed him. A Miguel Tejada error allowed Matt Kemp to advance to third in the sixth inning and then an ill-advised and poorly-executed pickoff attempt by Buster Posey allowed Kemp to score, breaking a scoreless tie. The Dodgers added insurance in the bottom of the eighth when Kemp — who had stolen second base — scored on a James Loney double off Santiago Casilla. A tough-luck loss for Lincecum, who didn’t allow an earned run, but a dominant performance by Kershaw who served notice that the matter of who is the best starter in the NL West is far from settled.

Friday brings us 11 more games and, weather permitting, all 30 teams will have broken the seal on their 2011 season by the time the day is done.  Here’s hoping the action matches or exceeds today’s level of entertainment.

The Cards dealt Stephen Piscotty to the A’s, in part, so he could be near his ailing mother

Getty Images
1 Comment

Last night we wrote about the rumored deal between the Cardinals and the Athletics for Stephen Piscotty. The deal is now official, with Piscotty going to Oakland for minor leaguers Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock.

Something else emerged about the deal today: a big reason why St. Louis traded Piscotty to Oakland as opposed to another team was so that he could be near his mother, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease last May. Piscotty and his family are from Pleasanton, California, about 35 miles from Oakland.

Here’s Cardinals GM John Mozeliak:

This was certainly a baseball trade — Piscotty became expendable for the Cardinals after they acquired Marcell Ozuna yesterday — but it was one which could’ve been made with any team with a couple of red or white chip prospects. That Mozeliak considered Piscotty’s personal situation in making the deal with the A’s is a credit to him and his staff.

The 26-year-old Piscotty hit .235 with nine homers and 39 RBIs in 107 games last season. He has hit .268 with 38 homers and 163 RBIs in 2+ major league seasons. He agreed to a six-year, $33.5 million contract extension last spring.

As for the prospects in return: Munoz, 22, hit .300 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs this year for Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. Schrock, 23, batted .321 with seven homers and 46 RBIs for Midland, and was a Texas League All-Star.