Blue Jays, Indians set record in '12 opener
Toronto wins longest Opening Day game in MLB history
CLEVELAND -- Progressive Field hosted an Opening Day-record 43,190 fans on Thursday. Everyone in attendance got to watch plenty of free baseball -- and be a part of baseball history.
The Blue Jays erased a three-run, ninth-inning deficit and knocked off the Indians, 7-4, in 16 innings, the longest Opening Day game in Major League history.
"I'm glad we came back. We grinded it out," Toronto starter Ricky Romero said. "We wanted to make history tonight. You guys didn't know that, huh?"
Two Opening Day games lasted 15 innings -- a tilt between the Senators and A's in 1926 and a contest between the Tigers and Indians in 1960. The Indians and Jays outdid those historic bouts after Toronto tagged Cleveland closer Chris Perez for three runs in the ninth to send the game into extra frames.
"I'm glad we have a day off [Friday]," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "The main thing is, once you play a game that long, you want to win it. We had our chances, but we didn't get it done. That's all there is to it."
Longest Opening Day Games
|16||Blue Jays 7, Indians 4||April 5, 2012|
|15||Tigers 4, Indians 2||April 19, 1960|
|15||Senators 1, Phi. A's 0||April 13, 1926|
|14||Mets 1, Phillies 0||March 31, 1998|
|14||Rockies 11, Mets 9||April 26, 1995|
|14||Reds 2, Dodgers 1||April 7, 1975|
|14||Pirates 6, Cardinals 2||April 8, 1969|
|14||White Sox 3, Angels 2||April 12, 1966|
|14||White Sox 9, Tigers 7||April 10, 1959|
|14||Pirates 4, Mil. Braves 3||April 15, 1958|
|14||Indians 2, Browns 1||April 16, 1934|
|14||NY Giants 1, Bk. Dodgers 1||April 16, 1933|
|14||Phillies 5, Bk. Robins 5||April 17, 1923|
Offense was hard to come by, though both teams nearly pieced together decisive rallies. However, a lack of execution prolonged the contest.
Cleveland placed a runner at third base with one out in the ninth, but first baseman Casey Kotchman and second baseman Jason Kipnis both harmlessly grounded out.
In the 12th, the Jays loaded the bases, but Rajai Davis flied out to left field to end the threat. The Tribe followed suit in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with one out, but Toronto filled the infield with five defenders and Asdrubal Cabrera grounded into a double play on the first pitch.
"That's the guy I want up there," Acta said. "Give it to me 100 more times with him there. He just tried to do too much with the pitch and ended up pulling it on the ground."
The Jays opened the 15th with a walk and a single, but Davis didn't run out of the batter's box after laying down a bunt. The resulting double play foiled Toronto's hopes of grabbing the lead.
"We've had guys go nine innings one time and suddenly we're asking them to go 16 in a five-hour game out of the chute," Toronto skipper John Farrell said. "We're dealing with guys who were cramping up during the game, even though it's not hot and sweaty. It's still cold. They've been on their feet for five straight hours. It's a testament to their will."
When Toronto finally struck for three runs in the 16th on J.P. Arencibia's tiebreaking homer, a few thousand fans remained, scattered throughout the ballpark. Sunny skies had faded into the dark night and temperatures had chilled to the upper 30s in a game that lasted five hours and 14 minutes.
"It's a long journey," Acta said. "It's just a game. We started the wrong way, not the way we wanted to, but we have a day off [Friday], we can unpack and be ready to play on Saturday."
The Indians are no stranger to Opening Day marathons. Since Progressive Field opened in 1994, the ballpark has played host to six extra-inning games, in which they are 3-3. Cleveland also played a 14-inning contest against the St. Louis Browns to commence the 1934 campaign.
Cleveland dropped its fourth straight opener. The Blue Jays have won six of their last eight Opening Day affairs.
"If tonight is any kind of insight into this season, strap in," Farrell said. "We're in for a long ride."
Indians ace Justin Masterson tossed eight innings and struck out 10, departing with a 4-1 lead. He didn't earn the victory, but he's proud of his place in the record books.
"Longest Opening Day game in MLB history, right?" Masterson said. "I guess we got in the record books. At least that's something. Who started [the game]? That's the trivia question."