MLB Notebook: Aces set tone in openers
On April 16, 1940, while Bob Feller was making history as the first (and to this day, only) pitcher to twirl a no-hitter on Opening Day, another future Hall of Fame pitcher was nearly as dominant.
While Feller was busy carving up a White Sox lineup in Chicago, Boston's Lefty Grove -- in his sixth and final Opening Day start -- held the Senators to just two hits in a complete-game 1-0 victory.
Until Thursday, when Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander decided to treat fans to performances almost as brilliant, April 16, 1940, had represented the only instance in the live-ball era in which two Opening Day pitchers, on the same day, finished their respective starts with at least eight shutout innings and no more than two hits allowed.
Opening Day dominance
Three pitchers -- the Tigers' Verlander (84), the Phillies' Halladay (83) and the Indians' Justin Masterson (83) -- produced a game score (an equation used to measure a pitcher's dominance) of at least 83. The last season in which at least three starters produced a score that high in their team's first game of the season was in 1980, when five -- J.R. Richard (85), Jon Matlack (86), Ron Guidry (87), Pete Vuckovich (88) and Frank Pastore (86) -- did it. Dating back to 1918, there have now been 74 Opening Day starts which have produced a score of at least 83.
Verlander allowed two hits in eight shutout innings while striking out seven and walking one. He made his fifth career Opening Day start for the Tigers -- the fifth most in franchise history. Jack Morris made 11, George Mullin made 10, Mickey Lolich made seven and Hal Newhouser made six. Verlander's game score of 84 was the highest for a Tigers pitcher in the team's opener since Schoolboy Rowe threw a four-hit shutout with six strikeouts and no walks (game score of 85) in 1936. Verlander is the only Tigers Opening Day pitcher in the live-ball era to finish his start with at least eight shutout innings on no more than two hits.
Halladay allowed two hits in eight shutout innings while striking out five, walking none and hitting two batters. Halladay made his 10th career Opening Day start -- the most for any active pitcher. He has made three with the Phillies, which ties him with four other pitchers for the sixth most for the franchise since 1901. Steve Carlton made 14, while Robin Roberts made 12, Chris Short had six, Pete Alexander had five and Curt Schilling also had five. Halladay's game score of 83 is the highest for a Phillies Opening Day starter since Schilling produced an 86 in '98. Halladay is the first Phillies Opening Day pitcher since Schilling in that start on March 31, 1998, to finish with at least eight shutout innings and no more than two hits allowed. Schilling also allowed just two hits in eight shutout innings in his Opening Day start in '97.
Making his first Opening Day start, Masterson allowed one run on two hits in eight innings and struck out 10. His game score of 83 was the highest for an Indians Opening Day starter since Sonny Siebert's two-hit shutout produced a score of 86 on April 10, 1968. Masterson is the first Indians Opening Day starter with 10 strikeouts since Sam McDowell fanned 11 in '70.
Behind Johan Santana's five shutout innings (on two hits), the Mets defeated the Braves, 1-0. With the victory, the Mets improved their all-time Opening Day record to 33-18, the best for any franchise.
Santana was making his sixth career Opening Day start -- tied for seventh most among active pitchers, behind Halladay (10), Mark Buehrle (nine), Livan Hernandez (nine), CC Sabathia (who is scheduled to make his ninth Friday), Roy Oswalt (eight) and Kevin Millwood (seven). Santana is tied at six with Carlos Zambrano, Derek Lowe, Chris Carpenter and Bartolo Colon.
The Mets' victory over the Braves marked the franchise's second 1-0 Opening Day win. On March 31, 1998, the Mets defeated the Phillies, 1-0, in 14 innings.
Here and there
The Phillies' 1-0 win over the Pirates marked Philadelphia's first 1-0 Opening Day victory since April 15, 1930, when it defeated Brooklyn behind Les Sweetland's three-hit shutout. The 1-0 wins in their respective openers made the Phillies and Mets just the 29th and 30th teams in the live-ball era to begin their season with a 1-0 victory. The last time there were two 1-0 games on the same Opening Day was on April 10, 1980.
The Blue Jays beat the Indians, 7-4, in 16 innings, making this contest the longest Opening Day tilt since 1901. Dating back to that year, two other Opening Day contests went 15 innings: April 19, 1960, when the visiting Tigers beat the Indians, 4-2; and April 13, 1926, when the Senators, behind Walter Johnson's 15-inning, six-hit shutout, defeat the visiting Athletics, 1-0.
Toronto's J.P. Arencibia put the Blue Jays up for good with a three-run homer in the top of the 16th inning. Arencibia, who debuted in 2010, now has collected 11 RBIs with a double, a triple and five home runs in his three season debuts.
At the age of 23 years and 260 days, Stephen Strasburg became the second-youngest Opening Day starter in Expos/Nationals franchise history. On April 6, 1987, Floyd Youmans got the honor at the age of 22 years and 330 days. Strasburg struck out five and walked one while allowing one run in seven innings Thursday.
Johnny Cueto (seven innings, three hits) and two relievers combined on a three-hitter as the Reds defeated the Marlins, 4-0. This game marked the Reds' first Opening Day shutout since April 9, 1980. In that game -- a 9-0 victory over the Braves -- Frank Pastore went the distance on a three-hitter.
A game after being held to one run on four hits by St. Louis, the Marlins were shut out on three hits by Cincinnati. Before Miami, the most recent National League team to open its season with two games of no more than four hits and one run was the 1993 Rockies.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.