Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Pena is Mightier Than The Closer


An opening game (opening day is really at home...to me anyway) match up of CC Sabathia and James Shields. You're talking a 2-1/3-2 game! And it was...by the 2nd inning. Only the Rays had already scored four.

Despite a shaky outing from Sabathia, the Yankees led 6-5 in the 9th thanks to an even shakier start from Shields and Raul Ibanez' 4 RBI. And then things got really ugly. Mariano Rivera started his 18th season by blowing the lead and then the game in the 9th inning. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was thinking, "game over" when Mo stepped on the mound.

But Rivera left a pitch up to lead off hitter Desmond Jennings that resulted in a lead off single and Ben Zobrist ripped a cutter up the alley in right-center for an RBI triple. Rivera, who intentionally walked two batters in all of 2011, issues free passes to Evan Longoria and Luke Scott to set up a force at any base.

Rivera struck out Sean Rodriguez, but threw another meatball to Carlos Pena, who drove it to the base of the wall in left-center for the game winner. It was a big day for Pena who was a member of the Rays from 2007 - 2010 and was greeted with a standing ovation his first time at-bat. The 1st baseman, who spent last season with the Cubs, got the fans even louder when he stroked a grand slam off of Sabathia to give the Rays a 1st inning, 4-0 lead.

Some questionable strategy came into play prior to Pena's at-bat when Joe Girardi intentionally walked Rodriguez with two outs and a base open. Though it set up a lefty-lefty confrontation, Pena is a much more dangerous hitter than Rodriguez.

The Yankees had cut the lead to 4-3 with the help of a rare bout of wildness from Shields and took the lead in the 4th when Ibanez blasted a 3-run home run deep into the right field seats. Ibanez had struggled for most of spring training, but had said that it was meaningless. He was right for at least one day. Rivera backed Ibanez's words up by having a great spring training and a really bad opener.

Notes

The Yankees looked like the Yankees for much of last season, going 2-11 with runners in scoring position. Though Mark Texeira walked twice, he and Nick Swisher looked off balance most of the day.

No manager love defensive shifts more than Joe Maddon and it paid off on Friday when his strategy took two hits away from Curtis Granderson.

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