Thursday, March 31, 2011

LIVE BLOG: Yankees vs. Tigers, 2011 season opener

Hello from River & Sunset headquarters in sunny Hollywood, Calif., where we begin coverage of the 2011 season with opening day. I have a cold Bud Light (never too early) and the knowledge that the canned Joe Morgan won't handle ESPN's telecast (he left the company to start a moderately successful WWE tag team with Jon Miller).

So let's do this thing. I'll check back in in a couple of minutes to give my 2011 predictions and possibly a complaint about Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. Good times.

1:05 - Tim Kurkjian: "Miguel Cabrera was arrested on a DUI charge early this spring but the rest of the spring has gone really well." Apart from that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

1:08 - Did you know that not one ESPN expert — a list of dozens — picked the Yankees to make the World Series? Even by their own RSN flag-waving standards, I find that ridiculous. Not one of those experts fathomed a scenario where the Yankees play well through July then make a big trade to fortify their rotation? Mark my words when that happens and 90 percent of those experts say the Yankees "are the team to beat."

1:10 - So yes, I think the Yankees have been undeservedly been thrust into the also-ran category, something a veteran team will surely be motivated by. Prediction: 92-70, AL Wild Card entry. Beat Braves in six in the World Series. A '96 vibe for sure.

1:14 - From commenter "the" - Can you talk about Barry Larkin on Baseball Tonight? The man was much smoother with his glove than his mouth. I'm really upset I missed this, since I love watching overmatched professional athletes on camera. I will tune in tonight.

1:15 - Cap'n Crunch ship-jumper CC Sabathia starts the season with an 89-MPH fastball for a strike. I like baseball.

1:16 - My goodness, Sabathia fanned Austin Jackson on a 94-MPH fastball in 42 degree conditions. Carsten Charles is ready.

1:17 - Curtis Granderson makes diving catch in center for second out. I predict big things from Grandy.

1:18 - I miss the Magglio Ordonez jheri-curl. I can't believe I know the correct spelling of jheri-curl.

1:19 - 1-2-3 inning for CC as Jheri Ordonez lines out to center. A good start.

1:21 - Brett Gardner, one of the Yankees' leadoff men, digs in against Justin Verlander. I give Gardner's 2010 a solid 'B'. Lots of promise, the speed we knew about, but a ton of strikeouts. Didn't expect that. Too many of them looking, too.

1:22 - On cue, Gardner chases a 96-MPH fastball out of the zone and heads back to the dugout.

1:24 - Derek Jeter steps in the box in his 15th opening day. Amazing. He falls behind 0-2 (an especially nasty Verlander curve ball was involved) and then flicks a soft liner to second. Verlander looks good early.

1:26 - Even though he's made up mostly of metal and other composite parts, Mark Teixeira shows very human mental weakness when it comes to April. If he could ever shake that, he could have an MVP season in him.

1:27 - Tex walks. ESPN notes that he's a .235 career hitter in April, which seems about 234 points too high.

1:28 - Alex Rodriguez steps in the box, entering a season suddenly huge on expectations. Anything less than 50 and 150 and you're a failure Mr. Diaz!

1:32 - If I was Robbie Cano, I'd be bummed I finished last season one point short of .320, one homer short of 30, and one RBI shy of 110. That's just me.

1:33 - You have to love how Yankees are making Verlander work here. Meanwhile, I'm really hoping they brought back the white nacho sauce at the Stadium this year. Biggest disappointment of 2010 by far...and I'm including Nick Johnson's corpse.

1:35 - Verlander needs 31 pitches, but he fans Cano on a 3-2 pitch to escape trouble. Scoreless after one.

1:41 - Jeter shows the range of a musk ox on a hot shot to his left. Runners on first and second, nobody out.

1:42 - So happy that Buster Olney is at the Stadium today. I love me some Buster. Meanwhile, the Yankees are in a heap of trouble. Bases loaded, nobody out.

1:46 - Rick Sutcliffe annoys me. There, I said it.

1:47 - Great comeback by CC, striking out Aviles to escape further damage. 1-0 DET heading into the bottom of the second.

1:48 - Really enjoying theis USAA retirement guide commercial attempting to lend nostalgia to the Vietnam War. Something tonally of there, can't figure it out.

1:50 - Oh right. 'Nam was an endless horror show in a jungle with land mines and Charlie hiding in trees with machine guns.

1:52 - And good ole Georgie Posada hits his first of roughly 250 lazy fly balls to left. Two outs, nobody on.

1:56 - If the shooting guard from the "Teamwork is Good" commercial told referees the ball was off him and gave up a crucial position, I'd be one super-pissed coach. Sportsmanship is overrated.

1:59 - Austin Jackson strikes out ... a lot. He led the league last year, and he's leading the league again right now with two.

2:01 - Will Rhymes seems like he has a particularly nasty Napoleon Complex.

2:03 - Funny how people always kill A-Rod, but we, as a sports populace, chose to overlook the fact that Ken Griffey Jr. was kind of a dick. Ironic he's now a spokesman for Dick's Sporting Goods.

2:06 - Man, is it crappy in New York today. What a horrible stretch of weather the last few months. (I will not mention my front door is wide open in L.A. right now.)

2:09 - Russell Martin singles sharply to left in his first Yankee at-bat and Gardner follows with a successful sac bunt that he nearly legs out for a hit. If Gardner can improve his bunting, it's the type of skill that can make him a .300 hitter in this league.

2:13 - Rick Sutcliffe calls three-run homers field goals, saying it so casually as if everyone uses the term.

2:14 - Wow. Teixeira obliterates a high fastball into the second deck and just like that it's 3-1. Like I said, if he could ever jump out to a fast start he's an MVP candidate. He currently leads the league in homers and RBIs.

2:19 - Always good to see Aaron Boone. It's amazing to think how one swing can change a person's life.

2:24 - Apparently add Brad Penny to the list of big leaguers who came into camp significantly slimmed down. I want to know who got fat ... well, other than Joba naturally.

2:26 - Reader the pointed out the struggles of ESPN analyst Barry Larkin earlier. Well, they just swung it back to the studio, and after a Brewers highlight, the former SS remarked that Ricky Weeks had a "monster offseason." Not quite sure what that means. If it means he drove Gravedigger at the Oklahoma Civic Center, hell yeah.

2:28 - Eternally scrappy Brandon Inge rips an RBI single down the line and it's 3-2. Sabathia is one bad pitch away from going 0-3 in quality opening day starts with Yankees.

2:30 - So let me get this straight: The Tigers broke camp and said, "We have our starter at catcher in Alex Avila." Dude has looked awful, fanning on three pitches here without coming near the ball. 3-2 Yankees after 3 1/2.

2:38 - Important inning for Verlander who needed just 11 pitches to get through the fourth. 3-2 heading into the fifth.

2:42 - CC in big trouble in the fifth. Jackson singles to left, then Cano muffs a flip from Teixeira on a bunt attempt. Runners on first and second nobody out with Jheri Ordonez and Miggy due up.

2:54 - Another 1-2-3 for Verlander. Tied at 3 entering the sixth. Good game. Meanwhile, Papa John commercial comes on. If you follow me on Twitter (@danhanzus !!!) you know I'm convinced the Papa John guy has a horrible secret in his past. We will know it one day.

2:57 - Anybody that doesn't think Sabathia is opting out isn't paying attention. Doesn't mean he's leaving Yankees, but the big man is going to get paid ... again.

2:59 - Fact: ESPN/NESN broadcaster Sean McDonough has a Red Sox tattoo on the small of his back.

3:00 - Just kidding about that last one. The tattoo is actually on his ankle. It's really cute.

3:01 - Another comment from "the": There is one person sitting in the third row behind home plate. On opening day. I don't care how bad the weather is, Yankee Stadium has GOT to do a better job filling those seats.

Good point. The Legends Seats are a disaster on almost every level. Knocks the Stadium down a full letter grade for me. I know the weather is crappy, but those seats should not be protected by an armed guard and moat. A literal moat. Ugh. Meanwhile, CC works through the sixth, still 3-3.

3:03 - I hope everyone is prepared to watch this A-Rod Direct TV ad roughly four million times this season.

3:07 - And if this is true, the Stadium grade drops another letter. @ BREAKING NEWS: B, D, 4 trains out of subway race. Now just Pinstripes, Road Greys and Midnight Blue. Photos later. Shocking.

3:11 - A-Rod ropes a double off the wall in right-center. His body language tells us he thought it was gone, probably had a triple if he busted it out of the box. I thought it was gone, too.

3:13 - Swishalicious up with runners on first and second and one out in the sixth. Verlander over 100 pitches. Big moment in game here.

3:15 - Swisher gets robbed by home-plate umpire Jim Joyce, punched out on a pitch six inches outside according to K-Zone. Now it's up to Posada.

3:16 - This is probably Verlander's last batter regardless of outcome. Up to 110 pitches on a 42-degree rainy day in April.

3:19 - Verlander is good. Comes back to get Posada and we go to the seventh tied at 3.

3:21 - Wow, Joba looked, um, well-fed in that bullpen shot.

3:23 - Sutcliffe is driving me nuts. Basically rubber stamped Chamberlain's 2010 season as a success despite "a few hiccups." Why do you torture me so, ESPN?

3:25 - Joba Ks Austin Jackson, who's fanned three times today. The evolutionary Rob Deer has arrived!

3:27 - Big Punisher Joba and 5-foot-8 Will Rhymes should start a novelty hip hop group together.

3:28 - Excellent inning for Joba. As I wrote this offseason, Chamberlain is not dealing with much of expectations for the first time in his big league career. This may work to his advantage from a mental standpoint.

3:30 - Meant to mention this before — Sabathia's final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K (106 pitches, 70 strikes)

3:33 - Grandy! The Yankees centerfielder is making my prediction of a big season look good. His long solo homer off Phil Coke puts the Yankees ahead 4-3 in the seventh. Now we get to see this bullpen go into his shutdown mode. Soriano to the GOAT.

3:36 - Random memory: When Coke was called up to the majors with the Yankees in September 2008, I was sitting in the same section as his parents. His mother was wearing a Yankees jersey with "Phil's Mom" sewn on the back. I remember thinking how mortified I'd be if I were Phil.

3:39 - The second good bunt by Gardner today, matching his total from last year. Man on second, one out, Coke out of the game.

3:43 - Really impressed with Martin as a baserunner today. Surprised Detroit in swiping third earlier and now tags and scores on Jeter's line out to short center. Important insurance run there. Yanks lead 5-3.

3:47 - "MLB: Always Epic"??? That's what we're going with? To quote an old SNL sketch with Sandler and Farley: "I'd love to meet the ad wizards who came up with that one."

3:49 - Soriano makes his Yankees debut. You hear a bunch of questions about the guy's character issues, but the bottom line is that it was a great move. Gave team a lock-down setup man and a heir apparent/injury replacement for Mariano. Dirty little secret of baseball: Stopping opponents in the eighth inning is equally important as stopping them in the ninth.

3:50 - Soriano freezes Cabrera with a fastball on the corner. The bridge to the GOAT looks strong.

3:54 - OK, Sutcliffe needs to stop talking for awhile. "Ya know if the Texas Rangers could have afforded (Soriano), you have seen Neftali Feliz in that starting rotation." I seem to remember the Rangers offering $150 million to Cliff Lee this winter. Affordability wasn't the issue.

3:57 - 1-2-3 for Soriano. Everything going to script. The GOAT warming in Yankees bullpen. Always a beautiful sight.

3:59 - I don't like the high socks look for Rivera. If he fades this season — a huge "if" I realize — the socks will be seen as the clear delineation point between when Mo was great and when he was not. And yes, this kind of stuff worries me.

4:01 - I see Kenny Mayne's face way more than logic should dictate.

4:02 - Good shot of A-Rod and Cabrera yucking it up at first. I assume it was a debate, with Rodriguez defending the merits of pink cocktails and Cabrera protesting that blackout-inducing cheap tequila is the way to go.

4:04 - Oh A-Rod. Meanwhile, he moves to third and a slow groundout by Cano. Swisher with a chance to push the lead to three runs with a fly ball.

4:06 - Swisher bloops a single into right field and it's 6-3. He's thrown out after wandering off first too far, but he does his job.

4:10 - Rivera enters to the familiar helping hand of Lars Ulrich and friends. In a related note, Rivera has no idea who Lars Ulrich is.

4:12 - That's back-to-back outstanding opening days for Granderson as a Yankee. He makes a great running grab in center to get the Yankees within an out of win No. 1.

4:14 - Rivera strikes out Aliva, capping a 6-3 win over the Tigers on opening day. A great start for the Yankees, who got timely hitting and a lockdown performance from a potentially special bullpen. Thanks to those who read along today!


the said...

Can you talk about Barry Larkin on Baseball Tonight? The man was much smoother with his glove than his mouth.

the said...

Excited to see Gardner going "full Messier" this year.

Dan Hanzus said...

Gardner's bald head terrifies me.

the said...

There is one person sitting in the third row behind home plate. On opening day. I don't care how bad the weather is, Yankee Stadium has GOT to do a better job filling those seats.