Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Night

Mariners 6, Twins 1
Seattle starter Felix Hernandez is a good pitcher. Even worse, he's in the habit of pitching extra well in April. That meant that Francisco Liriano's margin of error for this game was going to be very thin. And he was good, on the whole, allowing only 4 baserunners in 7 IP with 3 K and 0 BB (I'd love to see him get in the habit of avoiding walks). Unfortunately, all four baserunners he allowed scored, thanks to 2 HR and a leadoff double in the 2nd. One of the HR came from Ken Griffey, Jr. That's a nice feel-good story for baseball fans, but seeing Liriano yield a HR to a guy who slugged .350 vs. LHP last season made me feel bad.

We got our first look at the Twins' bullpen, and it was more of the same. Luis Ayala's debut with the club went fine, but Jesse Crain walked the first batter he faced before retiring the next 2 in the 9th. Gardy decided to try out Craig Breslow in his new, Dennys Reyes role vs. Griffey Jr, and the result emulated the worst of Reyes' outings: 4 straight balls, walk the lefty, hand the ball to Gardy. I was perhaps unfairly nervous to find Matt Guerrier coming into the game at that point. Mike Redmond allowed a passed ball to put both runners in scoring position, and Jose Lopez bounced a single through the left side to put the game out of reach.

Offensively, I wasn't expecting a lot, but the game got off to a great start with a walk from Denard Span and a single from Alexi Casilla. After Michael Cuddyer struck out (oh, if only Mauer had been there), Justin Morneau was robbed of a hit when his bouncer up the middle was deflected by Hernandez to Lopez and Morneau was incorrectly called out at first. What a different tone that might have set for the game - even if Jason Kubel's subsequent AB had proceeded exactly the same way, the pitch he struck out on would have been a WP scoring Span with the game's first run. Morneau hit again with the bases loaded in the 5th, following Cuddyer's RBI single, and promptly hit into an inning-ending DP. The Twins wouldn't get another baserunner vs. Hernandez.

My biggest positive from the game was the performance of Denard Span. He drew 2 BB and laid down a sacrifice, and looked great covering ground in LF. A few more games like that and I can forget about his March struggles. And Joe Crede got his first hit, a gift from the official scorer on a ball that should have been handled by Adrian Beltre.

Not the way I wanted to see the season start, but Hernandez is well on his way to being an elite pitcher. Liriano was just out-pitched tonight.

Blue Jays 12, Tigers 5
What's happened to Justin Verlander? How demoralizing to get 5 runs off Halladay and still lose by 7.

Rangers 9, Indians 1
Cliff Lee my butt.

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