Man it’s nice to have baseball back.
Obviously, we don’t have real, live baseball back yet. That won’t be for another few months it seems. But that’s not going to stop us from watching baseball, and yesterday we kicked off the 2020 MLB “season” with our own doubleheader of a few pretty incredible Opening Day games from years past. In the afternoon, Nick Pollack hosted a watch party for the 2017 opener between the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks, a game that featured two home runs by Madison Bumgarner and a walk-off win for the Diamondbacks. A bunch of us gathered in our Discord community and hung out and talked baseball, and it was glorious. Looking ahead, tonight we’ll have quite the treat, as Austin Bristow II is going to host the first ever NL Wild Card game, between the Cardinals and Braves from 2012. I don’t think anything controversial happened in that game, so it should be a quick and tensionless game.
Last night, we watched the 2011 opener between the recently crowned world champion Giants (the beginning of their EYBS), and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was an interesting matchup, as Clayton Kershaw faced off against Tim Lincecum, two pitchers that had two Cy Young awards between them. Somewhat surprisingly, it was Lincecum who had both, as Kershaw had really not quite come into his own yet. The Dodgers were also in their first game under Don Mattingly, and the Giants had a reigning Rookie of the Year behind the plate in Buster Posey, as well as a player making his MLB debut at first base in Brandon Belt. This wasn’t even a full decade ago, but it feels like an eternity ago based on how much has changed for those five people I just named.
Kershaw was dominant from the start of the game. He was picking up right where he left off with his fastball/slider combo, and struck out 9 batters through 7 scoreless innings. That slider was dominant, and it was incredibly strange seeing Kershaw touch 95 mph on his fastball, something he hasn’t done for three seasons now. Lincecum wasn’t quite as sharp, but that splitter was just as disgusting as I remembered, diving out of sight right as the batter made the foolish decision to swing. His fastball was pretty hittable, and this was beginning of the end for him: 2011 was his last productive year, as he completely fell off the wagon after that. I can’t help but think how much of his decline was due to his insane workload. There was a graphic displayed during the game that made me absolutely stop in my tracks. Lincecum had thrown over 240 IP in 2010 (including the playoffs), and so did Matt Cain! You never see pitchers with that kind of workload these days, and Lincecum is perhaps a cautionary tale against that. From 2008 to 2011, Lincecum threw over 900 innings. Absurd.
It was fun to throw it back to the beginning of the decade. While most of the players in this game are no longer in the majors, there were a few players that stood out to us. Matt Kemp was manning center for the Dodgers, and he was just about to go on his 2011 MVP campaign (that Braun stole). Pablo Sandoval was playing the hot corner for the Giants, and he was seen as a dangerous hitter then. Pat Burrell and Miguel Tejada were winding down their careers but not quite ready to call it quits. You even saw some optimism from the Dodgers side about Don Mattingly, which wore out pretty quickly, but hey, we didn’t know that yet.
Overall, it was a fun, quick game. The aces made quick work of their rivals for the most part, and Lincecum really shouldn’t have even gotten the loss in this game. The first run he allowed came in the sixth inning, after a terrible throw from Tejada allowed the Dodgers to keep runners on the bases, and Posey followed that up with a boneheaded attempt to pick off a runner at third, and Kemp scored as the throw sailed into left field. They then get an insurance run in the eighth inning off of Santiago Casilla, which was crucial as Burrell homered off of Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton in the 9th to make it a 2-1 game. Note that it was Broxton, not Kenley Jansen, who in 2011 was just a middle reliever being talked about as a “converted catcher” by the announcers. It wouldn’t be until 2012 that Jansen would fully take over that closer role.
While baseball isn’t truly back, it was great to hang out, watch a game together, and talk baseball. I’m looking forward to seeing more of you next time! What games would you like to see us host?
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)