Playing nine innings while cranking out some knee-jerk reactions to the first 0.61728395 percent of the baseball season …
1. One game down, and you have to figure the Red Sox have already chalked up one of their most frustrating losses of the season already. Nice of them to get it out of the way early, I suppose. They went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners, including at least one in every inning but the seventh. Mike Carp‘s base-running blunder on Xander Bogaerts‘s long drive in the second inning — a shot that fooled Joe Castiglione among others — might have changed the tenor of the game. A fine start by Jon Lester was wasted, and now he’s lost four of five decisions to the Orioles after winning the first 14 of his career. Too bad there’s not a game today to put it out of mind a little quicker. Getting their due at the White House will have to suffice.
2. Jackie Bradley Jr. made the final out, taking a borderline called third strike against Orioles closer Tommy Hunter. Thus continues Bradley’s Opposite Spring. A year ago, you’ll remember he tore it up in Ft. Myers to make the team despite having played just 61 games above Single A. Then he played a crucial role in their Opening Day win at Yankee Stadium, drawing three walks, scoring twice, and making a spectacular catch in left field. This year? He struggled all spring, didn’t make the team initially but came up when Shane Victorino got hurt in the final spring game, then whiffed for the 27th out of the first loss. If this spring continues to be 180 degrees from last spring for Bradley, here’s an encouraging thought: He’s about to get hot soon. In the meantime, grant him some patience, will ya? He was better in Triple A last year (.842 OPS) than he was in Double A in ’12 (.809 OPS).
3. A game-tying Opening Day home run for Grady Sizemore? Well, of course. Can’t tell a good comeback story without that kind of dramatic payoff, though I believe the original script said it was supposed to be a go-ahead blast, with the bases loaded, and possibly causing something like this to happen to the lights.
Right. Even during a day game.
4. Is it possible that we’re underestimating Shane Victorino’s injury in part because he battled physical issues all year last season and still put up terrific numbers? He’s already guaranteed of missing at least 13 games during his DL stint to begin the season. That’s not a brief absence, and hamstring injuries can linger well beyond any return date. The Red Sox have reasonable outfield depth, but given that he was a 5.8 rWAR player last season — second among Red Sox to Dustin Pedroia‘s 6.6 — his absence is probably a bigger deal than it has been made out to be at the moment.
5. I picked the Royals — did you know they won 86 games last year? — to claim the second wild card in the American League this season, with the Sox taking the first. But I do think that there’s a chance it goes to the Orioles if Ubaldo Jimenez can prove he didn’t just fatten up his numbers against weak-hitting teams last year. That’s a potent lineup, especially if Nick Markakis bounces back. And I do believe Dan Duquette has put together the third-best team in the AL East at the very least — I can see the Orioles finishing comfortably ahead of the Yankees.
6. Bogaerts dresses for the Red Sox’ trip to the White House like President Obama has the job he wants. Jonny Gomes dresses like he’s auditioning for a Lee Greenwood video. It takes all kinds to make a champion, right?
7. On the third pitch of his first plate appearance of the season, Mike Trout homered — and off King Felix, no less. Stay up late to watch him when you can, baseball fans. He’s our Mays, and I’m only being semi-facetious when I say he could be worth that entire $144.5 million extension this year.
8. If Trout homering in his first at-bat is the chief positive confirmation that the new season is officially underway, then Jose Reyes popping a hamstring in the first inning of his first game is the equal and opposite negative confirmation, right? Have to feel bad for the guy. These recurring leg injuries are robbing fans of one of the game’s most dynamic players, at least on the rare occasions when he’s healthy.
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:
The stat of the day belongs to young Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who pitched a masterpiece in Miami’s season-opening victory over the Rockies Monday. In his career, he’s 10-0 with a 1.21 ERA in 16 starts at Marlins Park. Should he keep that up at home, it might actually make it difficult for Jeffrey Loria to trade him once he starts making some real money. Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton for Dan Butler and Allen Webster. WHO SAYS NO?