Opening Day live blog (cont.)
Oh, Kerry Wood. An awful eighth inning for the guy who got the biggest pre-game ovation from the Wrigley faithful. Cubs manager Dale Sveum gives Ryan Dempster (7 2/3 IP, 2 hits, 10 Ks, 3 walks) the hook with two outs and Ryan Zimmerman coming to the plate with the tying run on first. Ian Desmond steals second, Zimmerman works a walk, and Wood throws a wild pitch to make it second and third.
Then Wood commits the cardinal sin: walking Adam LaRoche, who I won't pick on anymore except to say he's been absolutely atrocious today and shouldn't be batting clean-up for any organized baseball team, to load the bases. Jayson Werth then comes back from 0-2 to work a bases loaded walk, and we have a tie game.
Strasburg (7 IP, 5 hits, 1 run, 5 Ks, 1 walk) was pinch-hit for to start the top of the eighth, meaning he is off the hook in his first Opening Day start, though he won't be getting a win either. -- Gary Gramling
Then, in the bottom of the inning, with Brandon Phillips on first via a walk, Zach Cozart hits a would-be double-play-ball to third, but the throw to second by Hanley Ramirez, in just his second regular season game at third base, is wild and the Marlins only get one of the two outs. Joey Votto, the former NL MVP who recently signed a massive 12-year, $225 million deal to stay in Cincinnati, came up to a huge ovation and follows with a single,
Mark Buehrle then hits Rolen in the left tricep to load the bases with one out for Jay Bruce. Bruce gets a full-count cutter he can drive, but pulls it foul down the right-field line, missing a grand slam. Two pitches later, Bruce hits a similar pitch to deep center to plate Cozart and move up the other runners. That brings up Ludwick with men on second and third and two outs, but Ludwick flies out to center. 1-0 Reds after one. That was a 27-pitch inning for Buehrle. -- Cliff Corcoran
Mark Melancon in to pitch the ninth for the Red Sox. Kevin Youkilis moves to first. Nick Punto is at third. Rayburn flies to deep center for the first out and Jhonny Peralta continues his perfect day with a single to right. Alex Avila follows with a single that puts the winning run on second with one out and Valentine hooks Melancon in favor of newly-anointed closer Alfredo Aceves.
Aceves hits Santiago, who just barely checks his swing, on the back heel to load the bases with one out. Austin Jackson then singles under the dive of Punto and the Tigers win 3-2. -- Cliff Corcoran
It used to be the every baseball season would start with a day game in Cincinnati. Those days are long gone. Instead we get the Marlins visiting Cincy for a 4:05 start after playing a night game in Miami on Wednesday.
Longtime White Sox ace Mark Buehrle will make his Marlins debut against Johnny Cueto, who posted a 2.31 ERA in 24 starts last year but didn't qualify for the ERA title after throwing just 156 innings. Ryan Ludwick starts in left for Cincinnati against the lefty Buehrle. Ryan Hanigan, not rookie Devin Mesoraco starts behind the plate. Fellow rookie Zach Cozart bats second. For the marlins, Chris Coghlan starts in place of Logan Morrison in leftfield and hits sixth behind Gaby Sanchez. The rest of their lineup is the same as Wednesday night's. -- Cliff Corcoran
Interesting top of the fourth in Cleveland. Justin Masterson throws a little too close to Kelly Johnson for home plate umpire Tim Welke's taste and the ump warns both benches (Shin Soo Choo had been brushed back earlier in the game). Masterson goes on to strike out Johnson but then gives up a home run to the next hitter, Jose Bautista.
That's Bautista's first home run this season but it will be far from his last. The Blue Jays slugger hit 97 home runs combined the past two years, 18 more than the next-closest total (Albert Pujols had 79).
Wait, is the lyric "Take me out to the crowd" or "Take me out with the crowd"? Stretch time at Wrigley (Bill Murray and Big Head Todd, I assume from Big Head Todd & The Monsters). Murray goes with "with the crowd." It's 1-0 Cubs, and Ryan Dempster is quietly twirling a gem in the shadow of Strasburg. He hasn't given up a hit since Ian Desmond singled on the first pitch of the game. He's walked struck out eight and walked three. Dempster's gotten a lot of help from the wind; Ryan Zimmerman could have two bombs and four RBIs right now. But I suppose in Wrigley you pitch to the conditions. -- Gary Gramling
Dustin Pedroia leads off the ninth with a double into the right-center-field gap, moves to third on a subsequent single by Adrian Gonzalez, and scores on a sac fly to center by David Ortiz, illustrating just how big that insurance run in the bottom of the eighth was for the Tigers. With one out, the score 2-1 Tigers, and pinch-runner Darnell McDonald at first, Valverde strikes out Kevin Youkilis swinging at a 1-2 splitter for the second out. McDonald then steals second, putting the tying run in scoring position and bringing the outfielders in from their no-doubles positioning. Valverde then falls behind Ryan Sweeney 2-0 and Sweeney blasts a triple into the right-field corner on an 83 mph splitter to tie the game at 2-2. Cody Ross lines out to short and we're going into the bottom of the ninth.
That inning erases a great start by Justin Verlander: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K and is Valverde's first blown save since 2010. -- Cliff Corcoran
And the Mets are in first place. So it's only one game. And they're only tied with the Phillies. But five shutout innings from Johan Santana and four more blank frames from the retooled bullpen ought to be encouraging as New York grabs the 1-0 Opening Day victory. -- Joe Lemire
Tough day for the middle of the Nats' order, but in different ways. Ryan Zimmerman has hit two balls that would be gone if the wind wasn't blowing in. Instead he has two flyouts (plus a walk). Adam LaRoche looks like he's blindfolded and swinging at a piņata, with three strikeouts through six innings. He and Jayson Werth have each stranded five runners (all of LaRoche's with one out, Werth's with two down). -- Gary Gramling
A record 82 1-0 games were played in 1968. That figure wasn't approached for most of the 1990s and 2000s, but then in 2010 there were 62 (the sixth-most ever), and in '11 there were 56 (tied for 11th).
The Phillies just won the first such contest of 2012, behind a brisk two hour and 14 minute two-hitter by Roy Halladay and new closer Jonathan Papelbon, and they figure to be involved in many more. Philadelphia's pitching looked as brilliant as advertised, and its lineup as punchless, as it produced a single extra-base hit (a double by John Mayberry, Jr.) and was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Minutes later, the Mets and Braves lifted 2012's tally of 1-0 games to two. We're in a new, pitching-heavy era in baseball, and in some ways the Phillies are constructed to take advantage of that. However, if they don't find some more offensive answers -- at least until Ryan Howard and Chase Utley return -- their status as the favorite in the NL East will be very questionable. It's very hard for a club that allows itself such a slim margin of error, even one that boasts Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels atop its rotation, to win with anything approaching the consistency required of a contender. -- Ben Reiter
Tough to get a great read on Stephen Strasburg today, but he looks good. Not video game good, but good. The Cubs are jumping on everything early, so he's only thrown 60 pitches through five (four hits, one cheap run, 3 K's, one walk). His fastball is consistently in the 95-96 range, and his curveball looks sharp. He hasn't used the change much, but it's been effective in spots. He's left a couple of pitches in bad spots and given up a couple of well-hit balls. But considering recently-demoted Nats pitcher John Lannan is going to face some better lineups in the minors than what Strasburg is facing today, it's hard to get overly excited. -- Gary Gramling