Sweet 16th for the Jays

Toronto Blue Jays J.P. Arencibia (C) is met at home plate by teammates Brett Lawrie (L) and Omar...

Toronto Blue Jays J.P. Arencibia (C) is met at home plate by teammates Brett Lawrie (L) and Omar Vizquel (R) after hitting a three run home run during the 16th inning of the Jays season opening MLB American League baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland, Ohio April 5, 2012. (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

Mike Rutsey, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 PM ET

CLEVELAND - Okay folks, what was not to like about that one?

Well, if you happen to be a Cleveland fan you may have kicked your TV in.

For the Blue Jays and their fans, though, this was one long, sweet Opening Day.

It took 16 innings to play which made it the longest Opening Day game in Major League history, a game that started at 3:08 in the afternoon and ended in darkness five hours and 14 minutes later.

“If tonight is any kind of insight into this season, strap in, we’re in for a long ride,” was how manager John Farrell summed it up.

It had just about everything, topped by another dose of Opening Day magic from catcher J.P. Arencibia.

The Jays catcher has forged a habit of coming out with spectacular opening days in his brief career beginning with his major-league debut on Aug. 7, 2010 with two homers and three RBIs.

Last year the Jays opened against Minnesota and all Arencibia did was pound two more homers and drive in a career high five RBIs.

Arencibia was having a great day back of the plate but had done nothing with the bat as he dragged an 0-for-6 to the plate in the 16th.

With two runners on and the count 1-1, Arencibia attempted to bunt for the second time in his major-league career. It was a poor attempt and he fouled it off.

The next pitch he did what he does best and he drove it deep into the seats in left to give the Jays a 7-4 lead which turned out to be the final score.

Upon reaching the dugout along with the congrats and hugs came the word that the bunt sign wasn’t on, that he had messed that part up.

“It wasn’t,” Arencibia said with a laugh. “He (third base coach Brian Butterfield) didn’t give me the bunt and then I asked for the sign again and again he didn’t give me the bunt and I still bunted. After that it was two strikes and I was just like: ‘Bear down, try to put the ball in play.’

“I was 0-for-6, I was just trying to help the team and get the guy to third base. He hung a breaking ball and I hit it pretty good.’

Arencibia’s blast was the icing on the cake but other than the second inning when Ricky Romero lost his control and gave up four runs, there was so much to like from a Jays’ perspective.

Trailing 4-1 entering the ninth, they rallied for three runs to tie, the big blow being a two-run double by Edwin Encarnacion.

The bullpen was also heroic as manager John Farrell used all seven members and they responded by blanking the Indians for 11 shutout innings.

Farrell also employed a five-man infield in the 12th bringing Omar Vizquel into the game and leaving just two outfielders. The bases were loaded with one out and it worked as Luis Perez got Asdrubal Cabrera to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Just for added measure, in the 15th, both dugouts emptied after Perez buzzed Shin-Soo Chin’s noggin, sending him into the dirt. Chin bounced to his feet, took three steps towards Perez and stopped as the players from both teams milled about.

It was a game that was sweet to win and bitter to lose and one where Farrell could find so many areas to praise.

“Obviously it was the difference in tonight’s game but you could pick a number of guys tonight who contributed in a key spot,” Farrell said. “The bullpen did an outstanding job with 11 shutout innings.”

After his last start in spring training and again on Wednesday before their workout, Romero talked about how he would like the team to display a little swagger, an air of arrogance.

They accomplished that is spades this day.

“They believe in themselves and I know it’s Day One and we saw a lot in the first game, but the one characteristic last year was that we had a relentless attitude and a relentless approach and came back a number of times and today was another example,” Farrell said.

“I think that just speaks to the character of this group. I know it’s Day One but this is a game that makes you awful proud with the way guys continue to battle and grind things out for 16 innings.”

The game took so many innings to play and went on for so long that Romero joked that it felt like he had pitched the day before.

But like the rest of his teammates he took pride in what they accomplished.

“I’m happy we came back, we grinded it out, we wanted to make history tonight,” he said. “I’ve said it all along but this team’s special. I know it’s Game One out of 162 but I could have easily after the second inning just folded but I told myself ‘I’ve got to grind.”

“It turned out to be great and you have to tip your hat to the bullpen, what a tremendous job they did. It was a great team win and that’s all that matters.”

It was a game that could have gone the other way so many times but didn’t.

Like Farrell said, it could be the start of a wild ride.


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