The worst Opening Day starts of the 2000’s

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Opening Day is set to kick off in just a few minutes when the Houston Astros take on the Texas Rangers. The Rangers’ Matt Harrison opposes the Astros’ Bud Norris. Though Norris isn’t terrible, he isn’t exactly the type of starter you envision kicking off your team’s season on Opening Day.

With that said, let’s take a quick look back at some of the worst Opening Day starts of the 2000’s.

April 1, 2011: Roberto Hernandez (Indians) vs. White Sox

Hernandez, then known as Fausto Carmona, was hit right from the start. He allowed two runs in the first, four in the third, and was charged for four more in the fourth inning as the Sox put up an eight-spot. Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin homered in the third, but the rest of the damage was done by singles and doubles.

Hernandez’s final line: 3 IP, 11 H, 10 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

April 5, 2010: Carlos Zambrano (Cubs) vs. Braves

The Cubs staked Zambrano to a three-run lead in the first inning, but he gave it back and then some in the bottom half of the inning. On a walk, four singles, and a three-run home run by Jason Heyward, the Braves scored six runs. In the second, Zambrano hit Martin Prado, then Chipper Jones grounded out but Prado ended up coming all the way around to score on a Zambrano throwing error, and Brian McCann homered before the right-hander was finally removed from the game.

Zambrano’s final line: 1.1 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

April 2, 2007: Jose Contreras (White Sox) vs. Indians

Grady Sizemore led the game off with a home run, then three more Indians reached base without making an out — all singles. Josh Barfield landed a crushing blow with two outs, hitting a two-run triple to right field that brought the Indians’ lead to 5-0. Contreras came out for the second inning, but walked Sizemore, then surrendered a double to Trot Nixon to put runners on second and third with no outs. Travis Hafner hit a grounder to shortstop Juan Uribe, but he made an errant throw to first base, allowing Sizemore and Nixon to score, chasing Contreras in the process.

Contreras’s final line: 1 IP, 7 H, 8 R (7 ER), 1 BB, 1 K

April 3, 2006: Jon Lieber (Phillies) vs. Cardinals

Lieber was on the hook for eight runs in his start, which is amazing considering he exited the third inning having allowed only two runs on a Jim Edmonds RBI double in the first and an Albert Pujols solo home run in the third. The eventual World Series champions strung together a bunch of hits against Lieber in the fourth: five singles and a triple. Lieber left with his team down 5-0 with one out and the bases loaded. Julio Santana came in relief but he only poured more gasoline on the fire. Pujols hit a sacrifice fly, Edmonds was walked to re-load the bases, and Scott Rolen hit a grand slam to put his team up 10-0.

Lieber’s final line: 3.1 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

April 4, 2005: Javier Vazquez (Diamondbacks) vs. Cubs

The first inning wasn’t that bad for Vazquez. He surrendered four hits, leading to two runs, but they were all singles. The Cubs started crushing everything Vazquez threw in the second. He got Michael Barrett to pop out to lead off the inning, but pitcher Carlos Zambrano reached base on a double, which was then followed up by three consecutive singles and an Aramis Ramirez double, putting the Cubs up 6-0. Jeremy Burnitz struck out, but Derrek Lee extended the inning with a double to left, driving in the Cubs’ seventh run, pushing Vazquez out of the game.

Vazquez’s final line: 1.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.