It took a while, but the first ever interleague matchup on Opening Day is in the books. In a four-hour and 45-minute marathon, the Angels topped the Reds 3-1 in 13 innings this evening at Great American Ballpark.
While the hyped trio of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton combined to go 1-for-14 with three walks, catcher Chris Iannetta did the heavy lifting for the Angels’ offense. After smacking a solo home run off Johnny Cueto in the top of the third inning, he eventually broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run single off J.J. Hoover in the 13th.
Jered Weaver gave up just one run on two hits over six innings in his fourth consecutive Opening Day assignment. Garrett Richards, Sean Burnett, Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs, Mark Lowe and Ernesto Frieri then combined to allow just one hit and three walks over seven shutout innings of relief. Lowe got the win in his Angels’ debut while Frieri notched the save.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.