The play of the game?
A total of 95 hitters came to the plate Saturday in the ‘2012 season opening/let’s play forever series’ at Progressive Field, as the Blue Jays beat the Cleveland Indians in 12 innings.
“Ball in the dirt in the seventh,” answered Ricky Romero.
In a game which featured ninth-inning homers by Jays’ Kelly Johnson for a 3-2 lead and Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera to force extras, key RBIs by Brett Lawrie and Rajai Davis, seven innings by Brandon Morrow, allowing two unearned runs, and four more scoreless innings by the bullpen and Romero picked a ball in the dirt?
Well, let’s set the stage.
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez owned a 2-0 lead with two out in the seventh. He had not allowed a hit, but had walked two of the previous four hitters. Johnson was on second and Adam Lind on first.
Jimenez threw a 59-foot changeup in the dirt. Johnson and Lind were off. Carlos Santana chose to throw to second and Lind barely beat the throw, second base ump Paul Schrieber calling him safe.
“He’s not a fast base runner, but he’s a good base runner,” said Jose Bautista.
Lawrie hit the next pitch for a two-run single to tie the score.
“Both runners advance on that play, if Lind doesn’t read the play right or stays at first, it’s a one-run single,” Romero said.
Seated alongside Lind post-game, Davis, who knocked in the winning run with a two-run, double in the 12th was asked the play of the game.
“Kelly’s homer, Cabrera’s homer were important, Brett had a good day,” Davis said. “How ‘bout the ball in the dirt to get two runners into scoring position?”
Davis laughed when asked what it was like to be sitting beside someone known for his base-running.
“Soon as Kelly took off, I did too,” Lind said. “I didn’t look. Some guys from second will start, stop, go back and then I get thrown out trying to get back to first and look bad.
“I was safe but it was pretty damn close. I’m not fast, but I’m fast enough.”
Play of the game?
“The ball in the dirt which allowed Lawrie to hit the two-run. single,” said Omar Vizquel.
You likely won’t see it on the highlight package, but that won’t diminish the importance of Johnson and Lind advancing.
Quick turn around: Closer Sergio Santos came on for the save in the bottom of the ninth and disposed of Mickey Brantley on three pitches, getting a grounder to second.
“Alex Anthopoulos should be named executive of the year, I mean for this trade alone,” broadcaster Tom Hamilton told Indians fans on radio. “How in the world did he get a guy this good away from the White Sox for ONLY a minor leaguer.”
Three pitches later Cabrera homered to right to force extras. Again.
From scout’s row: “Here’s the thing with Lawrie, he showed he could hit a fastball last August and September,” said one scout after watching Thursday’s opener when Lawrie was 0-for-6. “He’s going to see nothing but off-speed pitches.”
The scout’s words would came to mind in the fifth inning Saturday. Jimenez got ahead of Lawrie with a 93-mph fastball. After a ball, he threw back-to-back 73-mph curve balls, the second David Cone-style from down under Loredo like, which Lawrie took for a called strike three.
Pitchers can only throw strictly off-speed offerings so long. Like in the seventh when after a first-pitch change, Jimenez threw his fastball and Lawrie lined a two-run single for the Jays’ first hit.
Say it ain’t so Joel: The Jays try for the sweep Sunday afternoon when they send Joel Carreno to the mound against Derek Lowe. Carreno was demoted to the Bobby Mattick Facility this spring, starting games on Mar. 18, 23 and 28. He worked his five innings throwing 72 pitches in his final outing.
The bullpen will get more work Sunday.
Overtime: The Jays and Indians became the first teams since 1969 to open with games of 12 innings or more.
The Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 4-3 in 12 innings on opening day with Joe Keough hitting a walk-off single to make a winner out of Moe Drabowsky at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City.
And the next day Lou Piniella singled in the 17th for a 4-3 win to give Tom Burgmeier the win.
Meanwhile, that same year at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, the Boston Red Sox edged the Orioles 5-4 in 12 as Dalton Jones hit a fly ball making a winner of Bill Landis.
And the next day Boog Powell hit a walk-off single for the O’s in the 13th as Dave Leonhard picked up the win.
New Jay on the way: Cristina Anthopoulos, wife of Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays general manager, is expecting their second child this summer.
The newest member to the Jays roster, a boy, has a tentative report date of Aug. 12.
Golfing moment: In 1992 I interviewed Pete Rose in Boca Raton for two hours. The conversation was winding down from talk of his season with the Montreal Expos, betting and Cooperstown, to telling stories when Rose asked: “You know Freddie?”
Sure I said.
He told me about a two-minute story. I was lost at the 20-second mark.
Finally, I asked “Fred McGriff?”
“No,” Rose said, “Freddie Couples.”
Waking up Saturday there was Freddie Couples on ESPN.
He’s still hitting them around the lush fairways on Augusta.
And now ... let’s go over to 17 ... where the announcers are whispering.