The Morning After: Games of March 31, 2011

Introducing FanGraphs’s workweek recap feature.

Reds 7, Brewers 6

Moving the Needle: Ramon Hernandez’s three-run walk-off home run, +.908 WPA. For a second it appeared as though Jonny Gomes had ended the game with a walk-off grand slam, but it was just a deep sac fly that put the Reds within two runs. Two pitches later Hernandez finished the job with an absolute pea that cleared the right field wall by plenty. Hernandez went 4 for 5 on the day, but the homer was his only run scored and RBIs.

Notables – Cincinnati

Edinson Volquez: 6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 3 HR. It was better than his last start.

Joey Votto: 1 for 2, 1 HR, 2 BB. In addition to his solo shot, Votto got the Reds on the board in the first with a sac fly. It came with a nice bat flip, but the ball carried only to the wall. His homer came in the seventh, a no-doubter to left off of Kameron Loe, who, as Jack Moore will tell you, probably shouldn’t face any lefties, nevermind one of Votto’s prowess.

Drew Stubbs: 2 for 5, 1 HR. Before Hernandez went opposite field, Stubbs went opposite field. Stubbs hit just one home run in 83 April PA last year. He hit 21 in 500 PA the rest of the way.

Paul Janish: 2 for 4. Freed, finally.

Jay Bruce: 2 for 5. He started 2 for 2, but neither of his singles factored into the scoring. Then in the seventh he struck out after the Reds had closed the gap to 6-3. In the ninth he came up with the bases loaded and struck out on a breaking ball. OBP for the game: .400. WPA for the game: -.111.

Notables – Milwaukee

Yovani Gallardo: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 HR. This was kind of similar to the line from his Opening Day 2010 start: 7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.

Rickie Weeks: 2 for 5, 1 2B, 1 HR. Not only did Weeks homer to lead off the season, but he added an RBI double down the left field line to give the Brewers a 4-1 lead in the second. He also made a nice shovel pass to first on a slow roller, ending the fifth.

Carlos Gomez: 1 for 4, 1 BB, 1 HR. Gomez saw Weeks’s leadoff homer and raised him, crushing one in the upper deck to give the Brewers the quickest 2-0 lead of the season. Last year it took Gomez 40 PA before he drew his first walk of the season. This year he did it in his fifth.

Ryan Braun: 2 for 3, 1 HR, 2 BB. The only time when Braun reached base and didn’t score was following his two-out walk in the second. His homer, hit so far that Stubbs didn’t even bother chasing it to the wall, put the Brewers up 5-2 in the fifth.

Ron Roenicke: 1 for 2. He came out of the dugout to argue Jay Bruce’s third-inning single, which the umpire says Mark Kotsay trapped. That was not the case. Roenicke was right, but that didn’t erase Bruce from first base. Again he emerged in the ninth, when Casey McGehee missed the tag on Brandon Phillips and then threw late to first, which loaded the bases with none out for Cincinnati. There he was wrong; it was his own player, McGehee, who was to blame. He could have ensured the tag on Phillips, or he could have thrown to second (or even to first if he didn’t think he had enough time).

Yankees 6, Tigers 3

Moving the Needle: Mark Teixeira’s three-run home run, +.211 WPA. Last year Teixeira hit just two home runs in 100 April PA. He was 0 for 8 with two walks in his previous two Opening Days with the Yankees. His three-run shot gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead in the third.

Notables – New York

CC Sabathia: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 0 HR. Sabathia’s sixth straight Opening Day start and eighth of his career. In his previous two OD starts for the Yankees: 10 IP, 14 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 7 BB, 4 K, 0 HR.

Curtis Granderson: 1 for 3, 1 HR. By the time Granderson came to bat in the seventh the Tigers had tied the game. The homer was just his 22nd career home run against left-handed pitching. He has 106 against righties.

Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera: 3 IP, 3K, 9 BF, just as the script reads.

Robinson Cano: 0 for 3, 2 K, 1 BB. Every walk is a sign of encouragement from Cano. Unfortunately, this one gets canceled out by his dropping the ball when covering first.

Notables – Detroit

Miguel Cabrera: 1 for 2, 1 BB. Cabrera involved himself with all three Tigers runs, scoring after singling to lead off the second, and walking to lead off the fourth. In the fifth he tied the game with a sac fly, which came two batters after Cano’s error.

Brandon Inge: 2 for 4, 1 2B. His two-out single in the fourth got the Tigers back on the board following Teixeira’s homer. This was Inge’s sixth Opening Day start at third base for the Tigers. He also started on OD twice as a catcher.

Alex Avila: 0 for 4, 3 K. Overmatched, perhaps. Austin Jackson also struck out thrice, but he singled and came around to score.

Padres 5, Cardinals 3 in 11

Moving the Needle: Cameron Maybin’s single, which, aided by a Ryan Theriot error, brought around the eventual winning run, +.407 WPA. It was just a ground ball single through the right side, but Theriot booted it and then made a bad throw when Chase Headley tried to score. Maybin, unfortunately, hurt himself coming out of the box. He says it’s just a cramp, though, and he should play Friday. Two innings earlier Maybin notched the second-largest WPA swing of the game, hitting a two-out, game-tying homer. Total WPA for the game: .690.

Notables – San Diego

Tim Stauffer: 6 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 HR. Lots of balls in play, but overall a nice debut for a surprise Opening Day Starter. Last year at this time Stauffer was sitting in San Diego’s bullpen.

Nick Hundley: 2 for 4, 1 2B. His double, which damn nearly went out to left, tied the game at 2 in the fifth. Then in the eleventh he followed Maybin’s go-ahead hit with an RBI of his own, a sharp grounder up the middle that scored pinch runner Cedric Hunter.

Orlando Hudson: 0 for 2, 2 BB. The Padres didn’t bring him around to score either time, but he added an RBI with a game-tying sac fly in the fourth. Despite the o-fer, he kept the WPA meter in the positive (.054).

Pat Neshek: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K. Notable because even with Heath Bell available, Bud Black went with¬†Neshek in the 10th to face Rasmus, Pujols, and Holliday. Walk Rasmus, get Pujols to ground into a double play. Why doesn’t every pitcher do it that way?

Notables – St. Louis

Chris Carpenter: 7 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 HR. That was his fifth Opening Day start for the Cardinals. This also made me remember that Kyle Lohse started Opening Day 2008. If the Cardinals are going to overcome the loss of Adam Wainwright, they’ll need more of these from Carpenter.

Matt Holliday: 3 for 4, 1 HR, 1 BB. He started things with an RBI single in the first. It appeared that he had ended things with a go-ahead homer in the eighth. Neither did the trick. He even walked after Pujols grounded into the double play in the 10th, but nothing came of that, either.

Colby Rasmus: 2 for 3, 1 3B, 2 BB. His first-inning triple looked like it had a chance, but it ended up hitting the wall. Will Venable didn’t exactly take a direct path to it, either. At least it insured against a Pujols GIDP.

Lance Berkman: 2 for 4. Noted because rounding third base is not a good look for him.

Albert Pujols: 0 for 5, 3 GIDP. Twice Pujols came to bat with no possibility of a ground ball double play. In both PA he flied out. He hit the ball on the ground only when that was the worst possible outcome.

Dodgers 2, Giants 1

Moving the Needle: Buster Posey tries to catch Kemp leaning off third, throws the ball away, -.119 WPA. It was a good block of a Tim Lincecum fastball in the dirt, but it was probably a bad decision to make the throw — and it was definitely poor execution on the throw. The Dodgers had the bases loaded with only one out, but had Rod Barajas up, followed by Jamey Carroll and Kershaw. That was the first run of the game for either team.

Notables – Los Angeles

Clayton Kershaw: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 0 HR. His debut on Opening Day, the first of many to come, couldn’t have gone much better. He set the tone by striking out the side in the first, and then cruised the rest of the way, facing just two batters while there was a runner in scoring position. May your fastball continue to sizzle, and your curveball continue to spin, Mr. Kershaw.

James Loney: 1 for 4, 1 2B. When Loney came to the plate with runners on first and second with two outs in the third, Harry Pavlidis said what we were all thinking: “Loney won’t be getting the job done here.” Indeed, his grounder to short ended the inning. But when he came up with a runner on second and none out in the eighth, he came through with a double that nearly cleared that short wall in the right field corner. That gave the Dodgers a two-run cushion, which they’d end up needing.

Matt Kemp: 1 for 1, 3 BB. Guess who scored both of LA’s runs. He put the work into it, too, forcing the throw from Posey in the sixth and stealing a base prior to Loney’s double in the eighth.

Notables – San Francisco

Tim Lincecum: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 0 HR. He actually allowed six base runners in the first three innings, but managed to keep the Dodgers at bay. After two one-two-three innings he ran into that bout of trouble in the sixth, but the Dodgers only got the opportunity to score because of errors by Miguel Tejada and Posey. Showing that it was no big deal, he set the Dodgers down 1-2-3 in the seventh. Despite the strong showing, Lincecum had a normally troublesome 58:45 strikes-to-balls ratio.

Mark DeRosa: 0 for 0, 1 BB. Noted because his walk was worth .088 WPA, which gave him the highest total among the Giants’ hitters.

Pat Burrell: 1 for 4, 1 HR. Noted not only because his homer was the GIants’ only run, but because he proved, once again, that he has little business playing the outfield.

Aubrey Huff: 0 for 4, 1 K, 1 GIDP. He gave one a ride in the fourth, but it didn’t have enough to get out. The GIDP helped him earn the lowest WPA score of the game, -.218.

Braves 2, Nationals 0

Moving the Needle: Jason Heyward’s second-inning solo homer, +.099 WPA. In Heyward’s first Opening Day start, as a 20-year-old in 2010, he homered off Carlos Zambrano. This year, at age-21, he homered off Livan Hernandez. Yesterday’s OD homer wasn’t quite as impressive as 2010’s, but it gave the Braves a 2-0 lead, which would hold through the next seven-plus innings. Overall Heyward was 1 for 2 with a walk. Why is he batting sixth again?

Notables – Atlanta

Derek Lowe: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. It’s a shame he couldn’t finish the sixth, but after walking Zimmerman he was at 105 pitches. That’s largely because Lowe, owner of a 5.89 career K/9, took the time to strike out six Nationals, including the side in the fourth. Only one of the six Ks was the pitcher. As is his wont, Lowe also induced 10 ground balls to only three fly balls and no line drives.

Brian McCann: 2 for 4. It was a pretty ho-hum day for McCann, whose two hits were both ground ball singles. In fact, he hit the ball on the ground in all four of his at-bats. It just so happened that his first grounder followed a Jones double, plating the first Braves run. He also gunned down Rick Ankiel trying to steal second.

Chipper Jones: 2 for 4, 1 2B. This game, which featured two runs in the first two innings and none in the following seven, lacked notables. Chipper makes it for his double and RBI in the first.

Craig Kimbrel: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K. The Braves will certainly miss Billy Wagner, but Kimbrel did his best on Opening Day to help them forget their former closer.

Notables – Washington

Livan Hernandez: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HR. The luckiest pitcher in baseball continues to flaunt his luck, allowing just four hits on 20 balls in play. He did enough for his team, but the offense just wouldn’t cooperate. Might that become a recurring theme this year?

Ryan Zimmerman: 1 for 3, 1 BB. He was one of two Nationals to reach base twice, though he never got past second base.

Danny Espinosa: 2 for 3, 1 2B. He was the other to reach twice. In the second he singled on a swinging bunt that actually first touched in the right-handed batter’s box. Then, in the seventh, he turned around to the right side when facing Eric O’Flaherty, he hit one right on the sweet spot into the left-center gap for a double. He eventually moved to third, but obviously never came around to score.

Jayson Werth: 1 for 4. Again, in a game that didn’t feature many notable performances, Werth sneaks in because it was his first hit with his new team.

Angels 4, Royals 2

Moving the Needle: Alcides Escobar flies out with the bases loaded, tying run on second, in the bottom of the eighth, -.156 WPA. The Royals took a while to get going, remaining scoreless until the seventh. The bats came alive in the later innings, but they just couldn’t finish a rally. They were in superb position in the eighth, loading the bases with just one out. Escobar came up with the bases loaded and two outs, and flied out. That was the Royals’ best chance, though they’d put the tying run on base once again before the game was over.

Notables – Anaheim

Jered Weaver: 6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. He also had five balls on the ground to nine balls in the air (three liners, six flies), which is good for him. He was another victim of early-season pitch counts, as Mike Scioscia removed him with one out in the seventh, at 107 pitches. I’m not sure the Royals score if he stays in.

Torii Hunter: 2 for 5, 1 HR. Hunter’s was the longest home run of the day, per Hit Tracker, traveling a True Distance of 461 feet. That opened the scoring for the Angels.

Jeff Mathis: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 HR. Mathis’s homer actually wasn’t the shortest of the day. That was Hernandez’s walk-off shot. The ball actually traveled 397 feet, or a little bit further than Weeks’s homer to lead off the season. Mathis then doubled with two outs in the eighth and tried to score on a Peter Bourjos single. But the throw beat him considerably, and there is simply no way Mathis is trucking anyone. Sam Miller of the Orange County Register put it well: “Just putting it out there, Jeff Mathis: Now would be a great time to retire on a high note.” Mathis had just 10 extra base hits all last season.

Hisanori Takahashi: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HR. Coming on in relief of Weaver, he wasted no time in allowing the Royals on the board.

Notables – Kansas City

Luke Hochevar: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR. It’s tough to say nice things about a pitcher who surrenders a homer to Mathis. But in the interest of — well, I’m not sure what — Hochevar did have a few strikeouts and induced 12 ground balls on 21 balls in play.

Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Nathan Adcock: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Not a bad job in relief of Hochevar. Everyone was interested in the short lefty Collins. When he comes set it looks as though his front foot is actually behind the rubber. Crow was the most impressive, though, striking out three of the four batters he faced.

Jeff Francoeur: 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 K. Everyone, whimsically, when Frenchy homered off Takahashi in the seventh: “Frenchy’s back!” Everyone, seriously, when he struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth on a pitch at his neck: “Frenchy’s back!”

Melky Cabrera: 3 for 4, 1 BB, 1 SB. My dislike of Cabrera from his Yankee days leaves me quite biased in this matter. But he accounted for the bulk of Kansas City’s offensive output. Unfortunately, his hits never drove in a run, nor did they result in him scoring.

Alex Gordon: 0 for 5, 3 K. He had a -.244 WPA for the day, mainly because he first grounded out weakly as the tying run in the eighth, and then struck out when the tying run was at first in the ninth.

We hoped you liked reading The Morning After: Games of March 31, 2011 by Joe Pawlikowski!

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

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Great new feature! However, there is a typo. Braves won 2-0 not 2-1.