Opening Day live blog (cont.)
Tigers ace Justin Verlander has retired nine in a row and Boston's Jon Lester has been almost as good. He finally got the leadoff man for the first time today by getting Brennan Boesch to ground out to first in the bottom of the fourth but then walked Miguel Cabrera on four pitches. Lester broke out a cutter on 2-1 to Fielder to get a swinging strike to even the count, then got a favorable call on an outside fastball for strike three. Delmon Young hit a foul pop up in front of the first base dugout to end the inning and the Tigers strand a runner for the fourth consecutive inning. Scoreless after four in Detroit. -- Cliff Corcoran
In 2007 there was a four-way tie for fifth place in the A.L. Cy Young voting. All four men are pitching today, but the intervening years have treated them very differently. Two of them -- Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander -- have subsequently won Cy Young awards, and have become, arguably, the dominant pitchers in their respective leagues. The Twins traded Johan Santana to the Mets for a package of players that now looks rather unimpressive (Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey), and even though Santana has been injured since 2010, he gave New York some good years before that (lest we forget, he's a cumulative 40-25 with a 2.85 in the blue and orange).
Then there is Erik Bedard. Bedard might well have won the award in '07 if not for an injury that caused him to miss the end of a season in which he struck out 10.9 batters per nine. The years to follow have been disappointing, and injury-filled, but when he's pitched he hasn't been bad: just about a strikeout per inning, an ERA well under 3.50. The Pirates signed the lefthanded Bedard to a one-year, $4.5 million contract in December to be their No. 1 starter, and it might well prove to be the winter's savviest free agent acquisition.
Through three innings against the Phillies, Bedard has looked like his old self, dialing his fastball up to the low 90s and mixing in well-commanded off-speed stuff (he has thrown 14 changeups or curves so far, 11 of them for strikes). The Phillies' three hits have come on a bunt, a soft grounder and a blooper. -- Ben Reiter
Four innings and 58 pitches can only tell so much about a 19-month recovery, but so far Johan Santana looks brilliant for the Mets. He's allowed only one baserunner (a first-inning single) through four frames, having retired the last 11 batters he's faced with four strikeouts. In the fourth he showed his range, striking out Brian McCann on an 88-mph high fastball and then striking out Dan Uggla on a 79-mph change in the dirt. Still 0-0 in the bottom of the fourth. -- Joe Lemire
Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla made the first error in the 2012 National League season, booting a routine groundball off the bat of Andres Torres, the speedy new leadoff hitter for the Mets. Moments later, however, Tommy Hanson, who allowed 33 stolen bases in 36 attempts last season, picked off Torres to end the inning. The Braves and Mets remain scoreless through three innings, each pitcher having faced one batter more than the minimum. -- Joe Lemire
Jon Lester's cutter looks sharp today. He used it to strike out Raburn to finish the second, and Jhonny Peralta had an ugly swing on one, but Peralta ultimately singled on a 93 mph fastball. That's three innings and three leadoff singles off Lester. No double-play this time, however. Alex Avila puts good wood on a 90 mph full-count fastball, but lines out to right. Ramon Santiago flies out to shallow left on a 3-1 fastball. Austin Jackson puts a good swing on a cutter, but flies out to center. After three innings, both pitchers have faced just one more than the minimum and are just over 40 pitches. Still scoreless in Detroit. -- Cliff Corcoran
New York's Johan Santana has been sharp through his first two innings of work, needing 29 pitches to get six outs while allowing only a single to Martin Prado. He's thrown 18 fastballs (topping out at 89.7 mph, per Pitch F/X data on BrooksBaseball.net) while mixing in six sliders and five changeups. First-pitch temperature was 53 degrees -- a far cry from the spring-training warmth of Florida -- but the weather wouldn't seem to be any issue. -- Joe Lemire
Fielder, in his first at-bat as a Tiger, works Lester full then singles into right center on a shoulder high 90 mph fastball. However, he's erased by a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Delmon Young. Look for a lot of pitchers to put Fielder on in favor of facing Young this year. Lester finishes the frame by striking out Ryan Raburn swinging on a 2-2 cutter riding in. Thanks to two double plays in as many innings, Lester has faced the minimum despite giving up a pair of singles. Scoreless after two in Detroit. -- Cliff Corcoran
The third game of baseball's third Opening Day of 2012 sees the Philadelphia Phillies travel to face the Pittsburgh Pirates, their in-state rival -- well, their fellow in-state professional baseball team. One thing to which I will be paying particular attention is the debut of the Phillies' new-look lineup. It is not new-look in a good way. Slugger Ryan Howard's continued recovery from a torn Achilles tendon, and Chase Utley's attempted recovery from chronic knee problems that might well force the premature end of his career, means that Philadelphia's offense features only two players -- centerfielder Shane Victorino and rightfielder Hunter Pence -- who can definitively be said to not be either over the hill (see: Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Ty Wigginton), or not yet arrived at the hill (Freddy Galvis, John Mayberry).
The majority of SI's baseball experts still chose the Phillies as the NL East champion and I wimped out and picked them as a Wild Card, due mostly to their unmatched top three starting pitchers -- Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. We'll see Halladay today, but there will be more pressure on him and his cohorts than usual. As one pro scout, who watched the Phillies hit nearly a dozen times this spring, told me last week, "Those top three pitchers better pitch their a---- off." -- Ben Reiter
David Ortiz leads off the top of the second inning by flaring a 93 mph fastball into the left field corner for a double. Verlander starts to increaes his velocity from 94 to 95 and then 96 and gets a a pair of groundouts (one saved by a nice scoop by Prince Fielder on a bounced throw from shortstop Jhonny Peralta) before facing Cody Ross. Verlander throws a variety of fastballs and breaking balls at Ross before striking him out looking on a nasty full-count curveball to strand Ortiz. -- Cliff Corcoran
Austin Jackson hits a first-pitch fastball from Lester into left for a leadoff single, but is erased when Brennan Boesch grounds into a well-turned 5-4-3 double-play on the very next pitch. Miguel Cabrera then breaks his bat and lines out to third. Scoreless after one in Detroit. -- Cliff Corcoran
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