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Toronto Blue Jays: A Closer look at the Home Opener

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7:01pm – The Toronto Blue Jays usher in their 40th anniversary home opener with an MVP ceremony for Josh Donaldson‘s majestic 2015 season featuring a splendid video tribute. Oh, and an absolutely awesome cameo appearance by the glorious George Bell looking both pensive and full of purpose – the only Blue Jay outside of Tony Fernandez who makes me feel young again.

7:03pm – Re-branded “History is Now” campaign on full display as the Jumbotron flashes memorable game footage from 2015 and anything before 1994. Yes, it’s been that dry. Nice touch having Roberto Alomar and Jose Bautista unveil the brand spankin’ new AL East Champions logo to the music of the Foo Fighters while Geddy Lee sits behind home plate eating nachos.

7:07pm – The Blue Jays take the field to the dissonant sounds of industrial trance and hip-hop leaving Buck Martinez bewildered. George Poulis scores early applause for longevity as the pre-Ricciardi era head trainer, followed by Sanchez and Osuna receiving an even louder ovation. During the starting lineup PA introductions, the man with one of the best jobs in the world somehow forgets Michael Saunders and skips over to Russell Martin, leaving many to ponder if Jay Bruce might still be on the way.

7:18pmCito Gaston channels Morgan Freeman in narrating a touching farewell video presentation to number one uber employee Paul Beeston who leaves the organization with a secured legacy under a sad exit strategy.

7:24pm – I was left largely unimpressed with the crowded broadcasting booth tonight. Dan Shulman is an absolute beast and adding him into the Martinez-Tabler conversational brew produced an uneven result. It was information overload from the start and needs to be refined to be more impactful.

7:30pm – I’ve become acutely aware of how brilliant Shulman is when it comes to shifting between analysis and play-by-play delivery – he is the best in the business and represents further legitimization of the televised baseball media experience. Me? I’d take Don Chevrier and Tony Kubek as a close second to preserve my best memories with the least amount of verbiage.

7:36pmJoe Kelly gets hit to the tune of .299 by righties and has given up 18 earned runs in under 30 innings against the Blue Jays.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

7:45pm – Bautista has been on base in 10 of his last 18 plate appearances and battles Kelly for a 9-pitch walk before Edwin hits a sacrifice fly and the Blue Jays are in flight.

7:47pm – The broadcasting team decides to reminisce about other modern day juggernaut hitting lineups and conveniently select the Cleveland Indians from the mid-90’s which included such players as: Manny Ramirez, Carlos Baerga, Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar Jr., Albert Belle, and Eddie Murray. Oh, and they also had Dave Winfield and John FarrellI can’t make this up because the baseball gods won’t let me.

8:18pmTrevor Story now has 6 home runs in his first 4 games. Shulman proclaims him a “pure rookie” and is genuinely thrilled. Buck & Pat debate if the Colorado faithful really miss Tulo while insisting they’d still take him over the phenom in a heartbeat – which is the same word they use to describe what he means to the Blue Jays infield defense.

8:21pm – Stroman Sr. interviewed by Barry Davis in a candidly revealing spot which includes such gems from Earl as: “Everything for Marcus is about school. I mean what if this doesn’t work out?” and “I’m a proud daddy.” There’s a very good chance he’s the coolest papa on the planet and looks like he’s physically ready to choke Bryce Harper if he steps out of line.

8:25pm – Jose Bautista hit 21 home runs, 57 RBI, and had a .966 OPS against the AL East last year. Losing him to a division rival would be a bitter pill to swallow – but what if he went to the Cubs? Maybe not.

8:27pm – The owner of the Red Sox is worth over 2.1 billion dollars and has commanded his team to spend less time worrying about analytics and not traditionally shifting the defense against pull hitters like Bautista. I’ll admit that on this night Farrell and co. played the Jays perfectly in orchestrating their eventual comeback through clutch pitching and timely hitting.

8:38pm – Buck & Pat & Dan begin speculating if Pablo Sandoval is worth as much to teams in baseball as David Clarkson was to teams in hockey. One thing’s for sure – he isn’t returning to the Red Sox lineup anytime soon.

8:48pm – Avoiding a potential broken jaw and orbital bone, Kevin Pillar somehow takes a 98 mph fastball off the edge of his helmet and lives to see another day.

8:51pm – The fans rejoice with massive jubilation as Josh Donaldson crushes a grand slam into the left field bleachers and Joe Kelly is beside himself. At 7-2 in the 4th inning, I’m already planning on watching Banshee and Billions with a clear mind and sense of well being.

9:03pm – Buck with the quote of the night when he comments on the manner in which Farrell is employing the shift and Gibbons is choosing his relievers: “Everyone’s so worried about the science they’ve forgotten about the art…”

9:10pm – My mind is swimming in nostalgia as Devon White and George Bell are profiled by the broadcasting triumvirate and Shulman stuns the crew by analyzing the Alan Trammell-George Bell MVP race in 1987. This produces an exchange which leaves most millennials scratching their heads in confusion.

9:30pm – A nice ovation for Marcus Stroman as he leaves the game with under 90 pitches while Barry Davis shamelessly lets us know that Peter Walker is 47 years old today and will soon be enjoying a nice Dairy Queen blizzard after the game.

9:33pm – Disaster strikes as Chavez gives up a grand slam to Brock Holt and the lead dwindles. Jays Journal previewed Jesse Chavez earlier in the year and I remain steadfast in my belief that he’ll be extremely effective for John Gibbons in 2016. With Morales in the pen it seemed like the timing was right with Holt at the plate – a natural lefty-lefty matchup scenario. Gibby went against the grain yet again and it cost him. Yet again.

9:54pmDrew Storen is pulled after giving up back to back singles and looks decidedly unimpressed as Gibby quickly removes him. Brett Cecil tries to keep things from getting out of hand but Big Papi ties the game with a single to score Pedroia and suddenly a 7-2 lead has completely evaporated. The pitching staff has a 2.52 ERA through the first 5 innings and a 7.50 ERA from innings 6-9.

10:00pm – Shock and awe as Ryan Goins commits an error and it’s the third time a ball skips or scoots away on the Jays fielders tonight. Tulo nearly collides with Goins to end of the inning and gives him an icy glare that Pillar is already intimately familiar with.

10:17pmGavin Floyd arrives to save the day and enjoys an absolutely surreal sequence with Russell Martin where the two men combine for 5 pitches juggled or mishandled, a near wild pitch, a near passed ball, and three complete misses on the plate where their signals are crossed. Miraculously, Floyd emerges unscathed.

10:25pmKoji Euhara relieves Junichi Tazawa. Hearing Dan Shulman utter that phrase actually made me think of wrestling and the film Mr. Baseball starring Tom Selleck as an aging superstar who heads over to Japan to rejuvenate his career before falling in love with his agent. As a baseball film I’ll rank it squarely between Cobb and Eight Men Out.   

10:37pmRookie Joe Biagini strikes out Big Papi for his first MLB punchout. A big high-leverage situation diffused with poise and supported by a trusting manager facing significant criticism early in the season. Tonight won’t help his cause as Gibbons will likely be asked why he pulled Stroman so soon and why Chavez was called upon to face a left-hander with punch.

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10:44pmThe Marvel Superhero known as Craig Kimbrel with his 39 saves last year and .176/.194 righty-lefty average splits and his 1.43 cumulative ERA during his 5-year stint with Atlanta steps in and immediately takes care of business. The Jays go down in order and the crowd falls silent as they lose their fifth consecutive home opener.

The Red Sox gained a bona fide starting ace and a shutdown closer during the off-season – a team not to be taken lightly under any circumstances. Tonight their victory was a clear shot across the bow of the good ship Toronto and should serve as a resonating wake-up call that this division will be fought tooth and nail right down to the wire.

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