For the second straight season the Blue Jays will open the season against the Cleveland Indians and against Justin Masterson. However, this time the lineup will feature many new faces and a different ace on the mound for the Blue birds.
Hopefully the Blue Jay hitters have a stronger outing than they did against Justin Masterson on April 5th, 2012. Although the Blue Jays did win the game, it was on a blown save by Chris Perez.
Masterson threw an impressive eight innings against the Jays with ten strikeouts. Moreover, in his second game against the Blue Jays on July 13th, 2012, Masterson got the victory in a 1-0 win after throwing seven shutout innings.
Therefore in two starts against the Blue Jays last season, Masterson pitched 15 innings and gave up one run and had 15 strikeouts.
So why should Opening day be any different in 2013? Here are some reasons that that trend will not repeat itself.
New year, new lineup
Here is the projected opening day lineup according to bluejays.com:
1. SS Jose Reyes
2. LF Melky Cabrera
3. RF Jose Bautista
4. DH Edwin Encarnacion
5. 1B Adam Lind
6. C J.P Arencibia
7. CF Colby Rasmus
8. 2B Emilio Bonifacio
9. 3B Maicer Izturis
From the team who began the season last year, there are four new opening day players including the projected top two hitters in the lineup. Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes should set the table well for Joey Bats and EE. Oddly enough all four newcomers will bat in succession (8th to 2nd).
Why should these batters make a difference?
Avoid the Strikeout
The four players that are not on the Opening Day starting lineup from last season combined for EIGHT strikeouts against Masterson on Opening Day 2012.
On the flip side, the four new additions do not strike out that often and all have great plate discipline.
For example, Jose Reyes only had 56 strikeouts in 160 games last season. Heck, Reyes, Cabrera and Izturis had less strikeouts combined last year than Kelly Johnson. So if you take those eight strikeouts and turn them into balls in play then the Blue Jays would have had more base runners (these four new players also combined for triple digits in steals last season).
Not only would balls in play help the Blue Jays, but Masterson doesn't have the best control as he sported a K/BB ratio of under two last season (1.81) so if they avoid swinging at bad pitches then Masterson won't find the same success.
There is a new Dick(ey) in town
Last year on Opening Day, our good friend who is now in Single-A (Ricky Romero), gave up four runs in five innings to the Tribe. Now, with one of the premier pitchers and reigning National League Cy Young winner, the Blue Jays have a clear advantage in the rotation.
As a member of the Mets, Dickey faced the Tribe only once (in 2010) and got the win giving up two earned runs and striking out seven in a victory (as a side note, Reyes also played in that game and had three hits). From that 2010 squad, only Carlos Santana is expected to be in the starting lineup.
What I am trying to get at is that the Tribe do not have much experience facing Dickey's knuckler. This definitely favours the Blue Jays.
The only two players that have any experience versus Dickey are two of the Tribe's big off-season acquisitions—Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs.
Stop Bourn, Win the Game
Stubbs is a measly 1-9 lifetime versus Dickey whereas we need to worry about Jason, I mean Michael Bourn versus the knuckler.
In three games versus Dickey last season, Bourn went 7-12 (.583 AVG). Although, only one was an extra-base hit, having that speedster on the bases could prove costly.
If Dickey keeps Bourn under wraps, then the Jays should find success against the Tribe lineup.
Excitement for 2013
Last season, Opening Day was in Cleveland, this year it is in Toronto.
There hasn't been as much buzz as there is this season in nearly 20 years in Toronto. The game has been sold out for months and the atmosphere will be absolutely fantastic. Blue Jay fans will be out in full force and this will definitely be a huge leg up to win the first game of the season with this re-tooled Jays team, at home, in front of the fans.
Enjoy the game all!
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