TORONTO – Much will be spoken and written about J.P. Arencibia’s trouble with the dancing knuckleball of R.A. Dickey, but the Blue Jays’ season-opening loss to the Indians can’t be blamed on the club-record three passed balls charged to the Jays’ backstop, who clearly earned the Opening Night start with his strong spring both at and behind the plate.
Here are the three things that stood out to me about the Blue Jays starting the season 0-1:
Letting Justin Masterson off the hook early
The Indians’ starter danced between raindrops for the first three innings of the game, running his pitch count into the 70s while retiring only seven of the first 15 hitters he faced, but the Blue Jays could only score once.
The Jays were bitten a little bit by the BABIP Monster, as after Jose Reyes’ lead-off walk in the first, Melky Cabrera crushed a line drive, but right at shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who turned it into a double play. Jose Bautista followed with a hard single down the left-field line.
In the bottom of the third, the Blue Jays loaded the bases with nobody out on a single and two walks for Adam Lind, who hit an absolute rocket up the middle – again, right at Cabrera, who made a very nice play on the short hop and turned it, once again, into a double play. A run scored, but the threat of a huge inning was removed.
Near-complete offensive failure for two-thirds of the game
After that Lind double-play ball in the third inning, the Blue Jays allowed Masterson to settle in and were generous hosts to Indians’ relievers Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez, as well. In all, 20 of the final 21 Blue Jays hitters to come to the plate were retired, including 19 in a row starting with that Lind double play.
There were a couple of nice defensive plays made – Jason Kipnis went far to his left to take a hit away from Edwin Encarnacion and Drew Stubbs made a nice sliding catch along the right-field line to rob Reyes of extra bases, but over the final six innings, the Blue Jays only really hit two balls hard and one of those was the only hit, a two-out double by Arencibia in the bottom of the ninth.
Arencibia, by the way, has at least one extra-base hit in every season opener in which he has played.
It’s not over yet
Even though the Blue Jays took the air out of the sails of a lot of fans by going out and laying an egg on Opening Night, appearing to waste all the energy and excitement generated by their busy off-season of significant, major improvements, there’s still a really good chance that they’ll be fine, have a great season and even make the playoffs.
No matter how well the Blue Jays wind up doing this year, they were always going to lose 60 games at the absolute least. That’s more than two a week. Losing the opening game of the season has absolutely zero effect on a team’s chances to win a division or a wild card spot.
It seems ridiculous to have to point this out, but fully half of the teams that won their division in 2012 lost their season openers. The 1993 Blue Jays lost their opener 8-1 in Seattle, and while the ’92 team did win its opener, it did lose the opening game of the World Series that year, and wound up doing just fine.
There’s nothing to worry about – whether it’s Arencibia’s passed balls, Lind’s 0-for-4 (five Blue Jays went hitless in the game), or Dickey walking four. There’s a long, long, long way to go in a season that’s still very much in its zygotic stages, and it’s not going to be all rainbows, lollipops and unicorns.
But if they won every game, it really wouldn’t be that much fun, would it?