Blue Jays outlast Indians in 16th of record opener

By Tom Withers

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, April 5 2012 8:10 p.m. MDT

Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Sergio Santos, left, congratulates catcher J.P. Arencibia after the Blue Jays defeated the Cleveland Indians 7-4 in 16 innings in an opening-day baseball game in Cleveland on Thursday, April 5, 2012. Arencibia had a three-run homer in the 16th inning.

Amy Sancetta, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

CLEVELAND — The Toronto Blue Jays are determined to have a special season.

They opened it by making history.

J.P. Arencibia hit a three-run homer in the 16th inning to send the Blue Jays, who rallied to force extras with a three-run ninth, to a 7-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday in the longest opening-day game ever in the major leagues.

A game that seemed so routine for several hours wound up extraordinary.

"I guess it's pretty cool now," said Arencibia, who wasn't thrilled at catching all 16 innings. "I'm glad to be on the winning end."

Arencibia was 0 for 6 with three strikeouts before he connected off Indians reliever Jairo Asencio.

The marathon eclipsed the previous longest openers — 15 innings between Cleveland and Detroit on April 19, 1960, and 15 innings between Philadelphia and Washington on April 13, 1926.

According to STATS LLC, the Indians-Blue Jays opener was the longest of 1,360 opening-day games played since 1901.

"If you're going to break records you might as well do it on opening day," said Indians All-Star closer Chris Perez, who was able to show some humor after allowing the Blue Jays to come back from a 4-1 deficit in the ninth. "No position player wants to be out there for 16 innings on opening day. I feel terrible.

"Everybody did their job today except me."

Luis Perez, Toronto's seventh pitcher, worked four scoreless innings for the win and Sergio Santos got two outs to end the 5-hour, 14-minute game.

Jose Bautista homered and hit a sacrifice fly for Toronto, which did next to nothing for eight innings against Cleveland starter Justin Masterson before storming back in the ninth.

Jack Hannahan hit a three-run homer in the second to give Cleveland a 4-0 lead against Ricky Romero. But the Indians didn't score again, blanked for 14 innings by Toronto's pitchers to disappoint a sellout crowd of 43,190 that thinned to just a few thousand die-hards by the end.

An opener that began in clear skies and bright sunshine ended just after twilight as the sun disappeared over the Lake Erie horizon.

This one had a little of everything: strong pitching, bad pitching, blown chances, emptied benches and bullpens, a soon-to-be 45-year-old infielder playing the outfield and, of course, a spot in baseball annals.

"I guess we got in the record books," said Masterson. "That's something. Who started it? That's a trivia question."

Masterson allowed just two hits and struck out 10 in eight dominant innings. But the Blue Jays, who believe they can hang with Boston, New York and Tampa Bay in the brutal AL East, rallied in the ninth off Perez and gave manager John Farrell reason to think this season could be wild.

"If tonight is any kind of insight into this season, strap in," Farrell said. "We're in for a long ride."

In the 16th, moments after the team's had rewritten the history books, Asencio walked Brett Lawrie and Omar Vizquel reached on a fielder's choice before Arencibia, who hit 23 homers as a rookie last season, drove a pitch onto the pedestrian plaza in left.

He was lucky it ever got there.

After taking a ball, Arencibia thought third-base coach Brian Butterfield had given him the bunt sign and he popped his attempt foul.

"For some reason, I thought I got the bunt sign," Arencibia said. "That got me in two strikes. Then I was just trying to hit the ball. I happened to hit it hard and got it out of the park."

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