Those of us in the Billy-Ball.com newsroom could not help but be fascinated by the Tampa Bay 7-6 victory over the Yankees in the opener for these teams. Just like the Red Sox picked up where they left following game 162 of 2011, the Rays did the same. The difference yesterday was that the Yankees were in it to win it. While I am thrilled that the (2-0) Dodgers have new ownership faced by Earvin Johnson, baseball already has a Magic Man: its best manager, Joe Maddon.
I confidently picked both the Yankees and the Rays for the 2012 postseason and although I picked the Yankees to finish first it was with less assuredness. And, what I love about the two wild cards is that finishing first now really does matter. With that in mind, I found that even on this fourth day of MLB’s religious weeks of Opening Day (we haven’t even gotten to home openers yet for 14 teams), I was paying particular attention to this game and it did not disappoint.
Here are nine items of interest from a very interesting game:
- Mariano Rivera blew the save and lost the game. This was the second time he did this on an April 6, the first being on April 6, 2005 when he entered the game with a 4-3 lead over (surprise, surprise) the Boston Red Sox and he proceeded to give up five runs (one earned) in two-thirds of an inning and the Sox won 7-3. To give you some perspective on time, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, and Kevin Millar were three of the Sox who faced Joe Torre‘s Yankees who had Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield among others.
- Mo tossed two intentional walks in the 9th. it was only the second time in his career in which he proffered a pair of IBB in the same game. The first was April 15, 1999 against Baltimore and Mariano took the 9-7 loss giving up a pair of runs in the 9th. BTW: In that 2005 game, the Yankee starting pitcher was Mike Mussina and in this 1999 game Baltimore’s starting pitcher was Mike Mussina. Derek Jeter was the Yankee shortstop in 1999, 2005, and yesterday.
- Let’s stay on intentional passes for a moment. Mo has now given up 38 in his 18 season career. His two yesterday matched his season total in four other seasons. He’s had three seasons in which he has given up one IBB and three in which he has given up none.
- Speaking of intentional passes, CC Sabathia gave up one in the 1st inning yesterday. In this his 12th year, he has given up only 33. The most since CC’s rookie 2001 season has been from Tim Hudson who has given up 68. On the other hand, since CC joined the Yankees in 2009 he has given up 18 intentionals. Over that time, Cliff Lee has given up three, Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke one each, and Jon Lester hasn’t given up any.
- Sabathia’s intentional walk was to Sean Rodriguez, his fourth in 321 career games. It preceded a grand slam to returning, and once again, Rays hero Carlos Pena. Pena had been 4-for-35 with 19 strikeouts (17 swinging) against Sabathia. In addition, Pena, prior to the blast had been 0-for-14, 1-for-29, and is now 5-for-38 lifetime against CC. His last hit against Sabathia had been on August 19, 2007 and it too was a homer. Pena now has three homers, a double and a single lifetime against Sabathia.
- CC has now served up two career grand slams. The first was on April 16, 2008 when Sabathia was on the Indians and Edgar Renteria was on the Tigers. Renteria’s blast did not follow an intentional walk just an infield single from Carlos Guillen and completed a seven-run 5th inning for the Tigers. BTW: the winning pitcher for Detroit that day was 28-out perfect game pitcher Armando Galarraga, who earned his first major league win.
- Pena now has eight career grannies, five wearing a Tampa uniform. He hit his first three while playing for the Tigers, then he hit two in 2007 as a Devil Ray and one each in 2009 and 2010 as a Ray. His 2009 blast was also against the Yankees (Jonathan Albaladejo) making the New Yorkers the only two-time victims. His slam in 2004 for the Tigers was a 9th inning walkoff against the Diamondbacks (following an intentional walk and a strikeout). None of the previous seven slams followed an intentional pass, but two had followed walks.
- So Carlos Pena drove home the first four runs in the 1st with the grannie and drove home the winner in the 9th on a walkoff single, giving him five RBI on the day. Pena now has 10 career games with 5+ RBI including a pair of sevens and a pairs of sixes. He also now has 8 walkoff RBI, four for the Rays, two for the Tigers, and one each for the A’s and the Red Sox. This was just his second single that produced the walkoff RBI; he has five walkoff homers and one walkoff walk.
- Finally, there is no one who works a bullpen better than Joe Maddon. Yesterday, Rays starter, James Shields pitched five innings giving up six runs n nine hits and three walks. Over the final four innings, the Rays used six pitchers who surrendered no runs, on no hits and three walks.
This was one game. One helluva game.