04 April 2006

Thoughts on Day One.

WP- Curt Schilling (1-0)
LP- Kevin Millwood (0-1)
HR- D. Ortiz (1), M. Lowell (1), H. Blalock (1)

So, just like Christmas, Opening Day has come and gone faster than all the other days- but unlike Christmas, Opening Day has little afterwaves that last for six months. So we got that going for us.

Started the day putting on the Mets and the Nationals from Shea, playing in the gunmetal grey Queens afternoon, starting off the 2006 regular season. It was also the kickoff for SNY, the Mets new Yes-esque cable channel. It began the game with one of those gag-inducing montage reels about how awesome New York sports fans are, and blah blah blah, we're all one, etc. Sucked. The good thing, though- Gary Cohen is calling the games on SNY, which automatically, by default, makes their production superior to YES. Sorry- it's true. Gary Cohen is a fucking master play-by-play guy; maybe my favorite of all time. Keith Hernandez was with him, another anti-YES broadcaster- he'll actually call the Mets out on things.

So, my first impressions- Glavine looked good, the Nationals don't look like much of a team, and if Willie Randolph even thinks of hitting his best hitter 6th in the lineup all season, I'm going to bring a god damn sign to that effect to every Met home game. Wright batted 5th today, but I've heard rumblings all over that he'll settle back in the 6 hole. Robbing your offense of that many at bats from your BEST HITTER seems insane to me.

But soon it was Sox time, and after a couple innings suffering through a Gary Thorne (who's gone way downhill)/ Steve Stone/ Steve Phillips broadcast, I was able to get NESN on MLB Extra Innings, and all was well. The sound of Don Orsillo's voice nearly brought me to tears.

I thought Schilling looked really, really promising today. The biggest thing was that he was getting swings and misses on his fastball late into the start. A lot of the contact on his pitches were foul balls, and the only runs scored on him were from a line drive 2-R HR from Hank Blalock, off a misplaced cut fastball. Otherwise, he worked through a tough 5th inning, gave up the runs in the 6th, and then was dominant in the 7th. A huge step in the right direction for Curt this year.

Offensively, the Sox didn't have much of a problem with Millwood, from the get-go. A number of balls were hit real hard early- Ortiz, Nixon- and tracked down by Laynce Nix. Eventually, they began to drop. Here are all the firsts for Boston's season:

HIT: Jason Varitek
RBI: Jason Varitek
RUN: David Ortiz
XBH: Jason Varitek
HR: David Ortiz
BB: Trot Nixon

Papelbon came in with a dominating, perfect 8th inning, getting Wilkerson, Young and Teixeira on a strikeout (Young) and too lazy putouts. The only down side of the entire game was Keith Foulke's performance. His velocity was a couple MPH off where you'd like him to be, and he was getting knocked around pretty good- somewhat reminiscent of the games he'd enter last year with the lead, get smacked around right at some fielders and escape miraculously. There are a couple ways to look at this- that it means he's cooked and his knees weren't the real problem after all last year, or that he's still getting stretched out a bit, didn't have a full spring, and was working on location with a big lead. Foulke seemed to favor the latter explanation after the game, saying he was working with almost exclusively fastballs, taking the opportunity with a good lead to get some work in. Remember- even in 2004, when he was excellent for the Sox, his spring was atrocious. It may take him another 10 or so innings to really round into shape. We'll see, though.

One of the plays of the game came in that 9th inning, with runners on second and third and one out- Laynce Nix took a fastball out to CF, where Coco managed to track it down, leap, and catch it for the out. The most impressive thing to me was how he tracked the ball- from the angle of the camera, he appeared twisted around- like he was going to have to spin around at the last second to face up to the ball. Instead, the ball kept peeling back towards Coco, drifting until it got close enough for him to leap at it, and make a nice catch at the top of his jump. Just from a few looks, it seemed like he would have been twisted up more if he'd run face up to the ball off the bat. Just a tremendous play. Coco was also on base twice in the game- once on his 5th inning fielder's choice, and later on his 7th inning single. Both times he scored- both times on doubles, and both times from first base. Let's just say it's fun to watch Coco run the bases.

So the Sox won their first Opening Day game since 2000. Remember- last year was the rough start in the cold rain on Sunday Night against RJ and the Yankees, 2004 was the colder, rainier game against Baltimore where Pedro was only average, 2003 was the Carl Crawford walkoff nightmare, 2002 was that dreadful afternoon softball-esque loss to Toronto (last home start, too), 2001 was the bummer extra inning loss to Baltimore (Lowe blowing it in the 11th after a beautiful Pedro start)- the day before the Nomo no-no. 2000 was in Seattle, when Pedro threw 7 IP, 11 K, no ER.

The other game I paid fairly close attention to, of course, was the Milwaukee game (get used to this). It was a really exciting game up to the end, which the Brewers won 5-2. Justin Lehr picked up the win in relief, with Pittsburgh's Salomon Torres taking the loss and Derrick Turnbow the save.

Both teams traded runs early- Davis giving up an RBI single to Oliver Perez, actually, scoring Jose Castillo, and Perez giving up an absolute bomb to JJ Hardy in the bottom of the 1st. Hardy looks like he filled out a bit from last year, and to my eyes looked a lot more relaxed at the plate, not jumping at stuff, and staying back. They did a nice compare/ contrast shot of his stances from early last year to this year, and he's keeping his front foot a bit more open to start this year, closing it as a step mechanism when he loads his swing. Anyway, he had a nice, hard, fluid swing, and the ball jumped off his bat. Great sign.

Rickie Weeks was 1-2 and a BB, while Prince Fielder struggled against LHP Oliver Perez (5.1 IP, 9K, ER). He took the Golden Sombrero with an 0-4K day. Davis looked solid- 6 IP, 2 ER, 6K. He has that perfect replication of the Tom Glavine delivery, and though his control is still a little iffy- 4 BBs- he kept the ball in the ballpark and the Brewers in the game. Milwaukee really, really needs Sheets to be healthy this year, though.

Lehr looked good in his inning of work, but Wise and Turnbow looked awesome. They were dominant. Still, going into the bottom of the 7th, they trailed Pittsburgh 2-1. After Rickie Weeks walked, stole second, and saw Bill Hall take his place at first with a walk of his own, Damian Miller sacrificed them over successfully. Up came the pitcher's spot against Torres, and Gabe Gross was sent up to pinch hit. Jim Tracy countered by bringing in LHP Damaso Marte, so Brewers manager Ned Yost brought in one of his two veteran pinch hitters- Jeff Cirillo (the other being Corey Koskie, sitting against the lefty Perez). Cirillo took the third pitch he saw off the inside part of the plate through the SS and 3B, scoring both Weeks and Hall. The Brewers took a 3-2 lead, added to that with a mammoth Carlos Lee 2-R HR in the 8th, and won their Opening Day game 5-2. Solid way to start the season.

Had to mention this- I happen to have a tan pair of corduroy pants that I wear fairly often, and I also, as only coincidence, have a tan corduroy jacket I happen to wear only sporadically but, for obvious reasons, never at the same time. This morning I was a little groggy, however, and I mistakenly threw on both before I knew what I'd done. I'm now covered from head to toe in tan corduroy. I look like one of the Bay City Rollers.

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