Indians blow lead, lose opener to Jays in 16

By Tom Withers

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, April 5 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia (9) tags out Cleveland Indians' Shin-Soo Choo trying to score on a passed ball in the third inning of a baseball game in Cleveland on Thursday, April 5, 2012.

Amy Sancetta, Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Everything had gone so smoothly during a sun-soaked season opener for the Indians.

A perfect day.

Chris Perez blew it.

Cleveland's All-Star closer couldn't protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning, allowing Toronto to tie it and the Blue Jays went on to win the longest opening-day game in the majors leagues, 7-4 in 16 innings over the Indians on Thursday.

J.P. Arencibia hit a three-run homer off Jairo Asencio in the 16th for the Blue Jays, who were three outs away from their first loss before batting back against the normally reliable Perez.

"I feel terrible," said Perez, who had 36 saves last season. "Everybody did their job today except me."

For eight innings, things went the Indians' way.

They got a dominant performance by starter Justin Masterson, who allowed just two hits and struck out 10 against one of the AL's most dangerous lineups. Jack Hannahan hit a three-run homer to stake Cleveland to a 4-0 lead, and the Indians did enough defensively to give a sellout crowd reason to think victory No. 1 of a new season was in the books.

Needing just three outs, Indians manager Manny Acta turned the game over to Perez, who couldn't close the opener.

"I take the blame," Perez said. "A three-run save, the easiest in baseball."

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 Perez, who was able to show some humor after his ninth-inning meltdown.

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 which began in bright sunshine and ended in darkness.

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

Hannahan connected against Ricky Romero in the second, giving Cleveland a 4-0 lead. But the Indians didn't score again, blanked for 14 innings to disappoint a crowd of 43,190 that thinned to just a few thousand diehards by the end.

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," Masterson said. "That's something. Who started it? That's a trivia question."

In the 16th, moments after the teams had rewritten the history books, Asencio walked Brett Lawrie and Omar Vizquel was safe on a failed 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."

Arencibia was unaware of his gaffe until he got back into the dugout, where Blue Jays manager John Farrell told him what he had done.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere