In the longest opening-day game in major league history, J.P. Arencibia's three-run homer in the 16th inning sent the Toronto Blue Jays to a 7-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday.
In the longest opening-day game in major league history, J.P. Arencibia’s three-run homer in the 16th inning sent the Toronto Blue Jays to a 7-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday.
Arencibia was 0 for 6 with three strikeouts before connecting off Jairo Asencio.
The marathon eclipsed the previous longest openers – 15 innings between Cleveland and Detroit in 1960 and 15 innings between Philadelphia and Washington in 1926.
Luis Perez, Toronto’s seventh pitcher, pitched four scoreless innings for the win and Sergio Santos got two outs to end the 5-hour, 14-minute game.
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Jose Bautista homered and hit a sacrifice fly for Toronto, which rallied for three runs in the ninth off All-Star closer Chris Perez to force extra innings.
Jack Hannahan hit a three-run homer in the second to give Cleveland a 4-0 lead against Ricky Romero. But the Indians didn’t score again, going 14 innings without pushing a run across and disappointing a crowd of 43,190 that thinned to just a few thousand die-hard fans by the end.
An opener that began in clear skies and bright sunshine ended just after twilight as the sun disappeared over the Lake Erie horizon.
This one had a little of everything: strong pitching, bad pitching, blown chances, emptied benches and bullpens, a soon-to-be 45-year-old infielder playing the outfield and, of course, a spot in the history books.
Cleveland starter Justin Masterson allowed just two hits and struck out 10 in eight dominant innings. But the Blue Jays, who believe they can hang with Boston, New York and Tampa Bay in the brutal AL East, rallied in the ninth off Perez.
Before Arencibia’s heroics, the teams had a mild dustup that warmed up the fans and had everyone’s adrenaline racing.
Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo walked with two outs in the 15th, a few pitches after he took exception to an inside fastball from Luis Perez that whizzed past his head. Choo scrambled to his feet and started toward the mound as both benches and bullpens emptied. There were no punches or further incidents.
In the 16th, moments after the team’s made history, Asencio walked Brett Lawrie and Omar Vizquel reached on a fielder’s choice before Arencibia, who hit 23 homers as a rookie last season, homered onto the pedestrian plaza in left.
The Indians squandered a potential game-winning situation in the 12th.
They loaded the bases on two walks and a single before Blue Jays manager John Farrell brought 44-year-old shortstop Vizquel off the bench as a fifth infielder. The strategy worked when Asdrubal Cabrera swung at Perez’s first pitch and bounced into an inning-ending double play.
The Blue Jays had their own chance in the 12th, putting two on with two outs off reliever Tony Sipp. Instead of taking any chances with Bautista, the Indians walked baseball’s home-run leader the past two seasons intentionally to load the bases before Sipp retired Rajai Davis on a fly to deep left.
Toronto blew another scoring opportunity in the 15th, stranding a runner at third.
Toronto trailed 4-1 going into the ninth after being stopped by Masterson.
But Toronto rallied for three runs off Perez, who missed most of spring training with a strained side muscle and looked awful.
Perez, who had 36 saves last season, gave up two singles to start the inning before Bautista’s sacrifice fly made it 4-2. Kelly Johnson took second on the play, and after Adam Lind walked, Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run double high off the left-field wall to tie it 4.
Perez got an out, but walked Eric Thames and was pulled by manager Manny Acta, who handed the ball to Vinnie Pestano. Perez hung his head as he walked dejectedly dugout amid loud boos.
Perez’s meltdown cost Masterson a deserved win he deserved.
The right-hander won 12 games last season, but pitched better than his record. Acta chose him to open the season, picking him in spring training over Ubaldo Jimenez, who may be the staff’s ace but hasn’t lived up to expectations since he was acquired in a July trade form Colorado.
Masterson set an early tone, striking out the side in the first. He got Bautista to chase a low pitch for strike three and the final out. Bautista wasn’t thrilled with plate umpire Tim Welke’s zone during his at-bat and complained briefly before dropping his bat heading to right.
The Blue Jays, who had the majors’ best record during spring training, spent the rest of the day flailing at Masterson’s pitches.
He retired the side in order four times, and except for giving up Bautista’s homer, was never in serious trouble.
Hannahan’s third career opening-day homer gave the Indians a 4-0 lead.
NOTES: The Indians have had six home openers go to into extra since Progressive Field opened in 1994. … Toronto’s Colby Rasmus made a diving catch to rob Hannahan of extra bases in the fifth. … Farrell began his playing career with Cleveland and pitched five seasons for the Indians, often taking the mound in less-than-ideal-conditions in old Cleveland Stadium. “I pitched in the snow before,” he said. “Opening day on the Great Lakes is a risky proposition.”