Rays and A’s walkoff and Big Papi is a Little Cranky

1. Tampa Bay begins with a walkoff and so do I

Carl Crawford doubled home two in the 9th to give the Tampa Bay Rays a 4-3 season-opening victory over the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles scored all their runs on solo homers from Adam Jones, Luke Scott and Matt Wieters but went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Evan Longoria homered for Tampa. New Rays closer Rafael Soriano (1-0) got the win while new Orioles closer, Mike Gonzalez (0-1), took the loss. Orioles’ starter Kevin Millwood allowed two runs and nine hits in 5+ innings. James Shields, making a franchise record third consecutive opening day start for Tampa Bay, went six innings giving up the three dingers and striking out six.

2. Live by the Glove, Die by the Glove

So Marco Scutaro made an error last night for the Red Sox, big deal, huh? I mean, the Yankees made three and nobody is questioning who they are. Well, that’s because the Yankees 6-4 won last night and Scutaro’s error set up the go-ahead unearned run in the 8th and Boston is all Henny Penny today. If there is anything Red Sox Nation should be concerned about it is the way the game played out according to the Yankees game plan.

The teams entered the 8th inning tied, 4-4 as both starting pitchers were mediocre once again as A.J. Burnett for New York and Jon Lester for Boston each allowed four runs in five innings. The game was turned over to the bullpen, which proved to be in Boston’s favor in the opener on Sunday, but was the difference maker for the Yankees last night. Winning pitcher Alfredo Alceves pitched the 6th and 7th for New York only throwing 23 pitches in two perfect innings. Manny Delcarmen struggled for Boston in the 6th allowing a hit and throwing 20 pitches. Daniel Bard didn’t look sharp in the 7th as he walked one and threw 16 pitches.

Hideki Okajima (1-1), the winner on Sunday, came on in the 8th and the Yankees did what they do best, they worked him. Jorge Posada led off with a ground-rule double. Then it took Okajima 11 pitches to retire Nick Swisher. “He fought hard. I tried to fight back,” Okajima told the AP postgame, “but with him fighting, it affected me.”

Brett Gardner blooped a singled to short left with Posada holding and after a Curtis Granderson deep fly ball, Derek Jeter hustled down the line as Scutaro’s throw bounced in front of Kevin Youkilis and ticked off his glove and the bases were loaded.

Up stepped Nick Johnson in the batting slot that had been occupied by Johnny Damon last year. Damon with the sacks full is a lifetime .399 batter with 192 RBI in 193 at bats. Johnson is not quite as good, but not too shabby with a .377 batting average and now with 69 RBI in 69 AB. Johnson drew a bases-loaded walk and now has four walks in 10 plate appearances and the Yanks had a 5-4 lead.

But what followed has got to put further fear into the hearts of the most loyal Bostonian. Dave Robertson started the bottom of the inning by giving up a hard single to Kevin Youkilis. In came Damaso Marte, who promptly threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt, before David Ortiz harmlessly flew out to center. Waiting to hit were Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew neither huge RBI threats but the best the back half of the Sox lineup has to offer.

In from the bullpen came Joba Chamberlain. Not the tentative Joba, the Joba who made his presence felt in 2007 when he had a WHIP of 0.75 coming out of the pen when he struck out 34 in 24 innings.  Chamberlain threw nine pitches, six for strikes and two strikeouts and that was that. Robinson Cano homered in the top of the 9th and Mariano Rivera picked up his first save of the season in the bottom of the 9th and fans got to see how the Yankees plan to return to the Series.

3. An A for Z

Barry Zito pitched three-hit ball over six innings and four relievers finished up the shutout as the Giants topped the Houston Astros, 3-0. If Zito is back to form, the Giants have a very deep and dangerous rotation. On the other hand, Houston is playing without Lance Berkman and is hitting .194.

4. Wolf wins his Brewer Debut

Randy Wolf (1-0) struck out eight in 6.2 innings in his first start since signing a $29.75 million, three-year contract in the offseason, as Milwaukee topped Colorado, 7-5. Wolf threw 97 pitches with 72 strikes with LaTroy Hawkins pitching a perfect 8th and Trevor Hoffman allowing a run but earning his 592nd career save.

Casey McGehee hit a three-run homer and Rickie Weeks a solo shot off Rockies starter and loser Greg Smith (0-1).

5. Today’s schedule

AL

Yankees (Andy Pettitte) at Red Sox (John Lackey), 7:10

Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie) at Rays (Matt Garza), 7:10

Blue Jays (Brian Tallet) at Rangers (Rich Harden), 8:05

Indians (Fausto Carmona) at White Sox (Jake Peavy), 8:10

Tigers (Max Scherzer) at Royals (Luke Hochevar), 8:10

Twins (Carl Pavano) at Angels (Ervin Santana), 10:05

Mariners (Ryan Rowland-Smith) at A’s (Justin Duchscherer), 10:05

NL

Rockies (Aaron Cook) at Brewers (Doug Davis), 1:10

Giants (Matt Cain) at Astros (Brett Myers), 2:05

Phillies (Cole Hamels) at Nationals (Jason Marquis), 7:05

Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) at Pirates (Ross Ohlendorf), 7:05

Cubs (Ryan Dempster) at Braves (Jair Jurrjens), 7:10

Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) at Reds (Johnny Cueto), 7:10

Marlins (Ricky Nolasco) at Mets (John Maine), 7:10

Padres (Kevin Correia) at Diamondbacks (Ian Kennedy), 9:40

6. Who needs Nathan?

Minnesota picked up their first win of the season and Jon Rauch, Joe Nathan’s replacement as closer, picked his first save of the season as the Twins topped the Angels, 5-3. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and J.J. Hardy all homered to back Nick Blackburn (1-0) who allowed three runs and eight hits in 6.2 innings with four walks and four strikeouts. Joe Saunders (0-1) struggled for LA allowing five runs and nine hits over five innings and whiffing four.

7. Numbers to Know

In the Angels game last night the crowd of 43,510 set a Guinness Book record for “the largest gathering of people wearing fleece blankets of one color in one place.” The fans all wore red “blankies” with Hideki Matsui‘s name and uniform No. 55 on it. A Guinness World Records adjudicator was on hand to officially certify the new record, which shattered the previous mark of 17,758 fans that was just set on March 5 by the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. I get the feeling that once the Twins play in their new open air ballpark they could break the blankie record as fans might need two or three each to keep warm.

When Mariano Rivera entered the game last night, it represented 16 straight seasons in which Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada had played together. No other team in major league baseball, the NFL, NBA or NHL has had a particular trio of teammates do that. It broke a tie with Milwaukee’s Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, who played 15 seasons together from 1978-92.

Ichiro has a 22-game hitting streak against the A’s.

8. Big Papi a Little Cranky

David Ortiz has started the season 0-for-7 and has, quite frankly, looked overmatched. Last night in the 5th with Adrian Beltre on deck and a runner on second the Yankees chose to pitch to Ortiz rather than walk him. Ortiz struck out swinging. In the 8th the same circumstances and once again they chose to pitch to Papi. Ortiz flew out to centerfield. Two years ago, they would have intentionally walked Ortiz to face Beltre.

After the game, Ortiz was reminded of his slow start last season and the way this season has unfolded thus far. He responded: “Good,” he said, turning to face the reporters encircling him. “You guys wait ’til [expletive] happens, then you can talk [expletive]. Two [expletive] games, and already you [expletives] are going crazy.

“What’s up with that, man? [Expletive]. [Expletive] 160 games left. That’s a [expletive]. One of you [expletives] got to go ahead and hit for me.”

Stay [Expletive] tuned.

9. I love walkoffs

Oakland topped the Mariners 2-1 in 10 innings on a Mark Ellis walkoff single in the 10th off Kanekoa Texeira, in his major league debut, scoring pinch-runner Eric Patterson from second base. Edwar Ramirez (1-0) pitched the 10th to earn his first win since Sept. 3, 2008, when he was with the Yankees. A’s starter Dallas Braden recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts in seven innings. Mariners starter Ian Snell went six innings, giving up one runs on three hits. He walked two and struck out four.

The Nos. 4 through 9 spots in the order went 1 for 24 and the Mariners made it beyond first base only once. It was Ellis’ sixth career walkoff hit. The M’s have scored 3 earned runs in the first 2 games, and the “earned” run tonight was because of a balk and a wild pitch.