We are going to do a round of having each of us pick out our three most memorable games from this past season. Since I'm going first, I'm picking the low hanging fruit.
This is a bit of a cheat, opening day is always memorable. This one more so than most. After the build up of the off-season, we were really looking forward to this season. With R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle added to the rotation and Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and Emilio Bonifacio added to the line up, this was going to be our year. How could the season go wrong, we had Geddy Lee throwing out the first pitch.
Opening Day should have been our first clue that it wasn't going to be our year. First of all, we were only able to manage 4 hits against Justin Masterson and 3 relievers, one of whom has Chris Perez. Not being able to score against Perez should have told us everything we needed to know about 2013.
We had our ace starting, the 2012 NL Cy Young winner. All would be good. It wasn't. For one, he had a hard time with the strike zone, or, perhaps, home plate umpire, Jeff Nelson had a hard time calling a knuckleball. It isn't easy, I umpired one game when a kid threw an occasional, but very impressive, knuckleball. It is a tough pitch to call. Most pitches you have a good idea if it is going to be a strike soon after it leaves the pitcher's hand. Knuckleballs you have no clue until it gets to the plate, and at the very last moment it could move several inches in any direction (ok, not up, even the knuckleball can't defy gravity).
Among the things that made the game memorable (in a man I wish I could forget that way) was J.P. Arencibia's troubles catching a knuckleball, one that was dancing even more than normal. J.P. had 3 passed balls on the day, and there was one Dickey pitch that was deemed a wild pitch. After the three passed balls, in the first two innings, Henry Blanco made a suggestion that improved things for him.
The moment that sticks out most in my mind was the two-run home run that Asdrubal Cabrera hit. I can still see the incredulous look on Dickey's face. Cabrera didn't really make great contract but he ball carried over the opposite field wall. It surprised me that it was a home run, but not as much as it surprised RA. More foreshadowing. That would be the first of 35 home runs Dickey would allow.
Really about the only things this game was missing, to make it a total metaphor for the season to come was a Bonifacio error and an injury.
Opening day, and we found out that our Jays wouldn't go 162-0. The good foreshadowing? We had 3 scoreless innings from our bullpen. Aaron Loup, Sergio Santos and Brett Cecil allowed just 2 hits to go with 3 strikeouts.
You can see the look on Dickey's face in this MLB recap of the game.
Mark Buehrle allows 7 runs in one inning, Jays come back and win.
It was May 6th and the season wasn't going the way we expected. Coming into that evening's game against the Rays we were sitting at 11-21.
That night's starting pitcher wasn't giving us what we expected either. Before the start of the game, he was 1-2 with a 6.43 ERA. We were starting to feel that Buehrle just didn't have what it took to pitch in the AL East. or maybe he was done at the age of 34.
The night, against the Rays, he fought his way through a first inning in which he allowed 2 hits and a walk, but a pickoff of Desmond Jennings helped him put up a zero in the first. Then a quick 3 up 3 down second inning made you think all was going to be ok. That feeling didn't last long.
His third inning went single, walk, single, single, home run, double, strikeout (yay), home run, ground out and strikeouts. 7 runs. The guy gave up 7 runs, including 2 home runs, in one inning, and stayed in the game. I spent a few hours, on Baseball Reference, trying to find another time when a starting pitcher had allowed 7 run in an inning and stayed in the game to pitch the next inning, but I didn't find one.
Buehrle would pitch 3 more innings, allowing just one more hit.
Amazingly enough, our offense was able to make a great comeback. We scored 3 in the 4th inning, Colby Rasmus hit a 2-run homer, and Melky Cabrera singled home another. Two more scored in the 6th, on a Mark Buehrle home run. A Jose Bautista sac fly in he 8th brought us to within a run. And J.P. Arencibia hit a 2-run shot, in the 9th, to give us the lead. He was loved, for a few minutes.
We had hopes that this would be the game that turned our season around. It didn't. But it did seem to turn Mark Buehrle's season around. He finished the game with a 7.02 ERA, by September 4th he would have his ERA down to 3.88. After that start, he went 10-5 over his next 22 starts. Leaving him in the game turned out to be one of the best moves that Gibby made all season.
It almost seemed like Buehrle was tired of being humiliated start after start and decided to fix things. He did seem to get into a better rhythm with JP after that game. JP was, perhaps, having troubles getting the signs down quickly enough for Buehrle who does say that he'd rather throw the wrong pitch than spend time thinking about the right pitch. He never shakes off a catcher.
Here is MLB's video recap of the game:
Munenori Kawasaki's walk off double
May 26th was the day we found out that Munenori Kawasaki was Japanese. This was the greatest post game interview of the season.
In a season with few high points, this might have been the best moment of the season. Munenori came up to bat in the bottom of the 9th with the Jays down by a run, 2 out and runners on the corners. If we weren't in love with him before this, we were after.
If the game winning hit wasn't enough, Munenori had an RBI single in the 8th and he made a great relay throw put out Nick Markakis at the plate in the first inning.
If you want to know more about the game: Chad Jenkins started and give up 8 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings, but only allowed 2 runs, pretty much a magic act. Thad Weber continued the magic, by allowing 2 hits and a walk, but not allowing a run. Aaron Loup and Steve Delabar weren't as lucky, allowing a combined 3 run in 3 innings.
But really, Kawasaki was the entire story of the game, getting a .954 WPA for the game.
I was at the game, we were in Toronto for a week of games, I'm very lucky that was one of the game we saw.