Box score of the day: Longest opener ever

April 5th, 2020

The Blue Jays and Indians started the 2012 season in historic fashion eight years ago today, playing the equivalent of nearly two full games on Opening Day in Cleveland.

Sixteen innings, 14 pitchers, 540 pitches thrown. It set a record for the longest season-opening game ever, in terms of innings.

Playing their first regular-season game in a new uniform set that hearkened back to the franchise's original look, the Blue Jays fell behind early when the Indians scored four runs in the second. Although Toronto didn't allow another run, the Tribe seemed poised to walk away with an Opening Day victory until the ninth inning, when the Jays scored three runs off Indians closer Chris Perez to tie the game at four.

That's where the score stayed for another six innings before finally broke the deadlock, slamming a three-run homer to left field off Jairo Asencio in the top of the 16th to give the Blue Jays a 7-4 win.

Let's take a closer look at this marathon matchup, which is today's box score of the day.

Player of the game: J.P. Arencibia

deserves a mention here, as he reached base five times with a homer and two RBIs. Arencibia, meanwhile, was 0-for-6 with three K's when he stepped to the plate in the 16th inning. But the catcher's clutch three-run blast was the difference in this one.

The homer made up for Arencibia's inning-ending groundout in the top of the ninth, which came with the go-ahead run on second. The Blue Jays also had multiple runners on base in the 10th, 12th and 15th, but couldn't get a run across.

Arencibia ended up collecting just two hits over his first 32 at-bats in 2012, and he finished the year with a .233/.275/.435 slash line. The backstop played one more year with the Blue Jays after that before logging short stints with the Rangers and the Rays.

Remember him?

Masterson, the only Major League pitcher ever born in Jamaica, initially debuted in the Majors for the Red Sox in 2008, and was traded to the Indians with two others for Victor Martinez before the '09 Trade Deadline.

A sinkerballer whose lifetime ground-ball rate was over 56%, Masterson was selected for the Opening Day start in 2012 after leading all Tribe starters with a 3.21 ERA over 216 innings the previous season.

Masterson was in rare form against the Blue Jays, allowing only one run on two hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts over eight innings, but Perez's blown save cost the starter a win.

Masterson would go on to top 200 innings for the second straight year, but with a 4.93 ERA. He rebounded in 2013, making his first and only All-Star team and posting a 3.45 ERA with a career-high 195 K's in 193 innings. However, he pitched only two more years after that.

He wore THAT uniform?

Thames looked a lot different back in 2012, and not just because of the uniform. From his beard to his biceps, there was just less of him at this point.

Coming off a productive 2011 debut season (12 homers, .769 OPS) with the Jays, Thames drew the Opening Day start in left field against the Indians, going 0-for-4 with a walk. It was the beginning of a rough year for the slugger, who was traded to the Mariners in July and finished the season with a .672 OPS.

After spending all of 2013 in the Minors, Thames went on to star in the Korea Baseball Organization, hitting .349/.451/.721 with 124 homers and 382 RBIs over three seasons to earn a ticket back to MLB with the Brewers.

Before he was big:

It's hard to remember a time when Encarnación wasn't one of the game's premier power hitters, but here he was in 2012, fresh off a 17-homer campaign at age 28. It was the last time to date that he didn't have at least 32 dingers in a season.

Encarnación went 2-for-7 against Cleveland on Opening Day, tying the game with a two-run double off Perez in the top of the ninth inning. This marked the beginning of a breakout year for the veteran, who finished the season with 42 home runs, 110 RBIs and a .941 OPS over 151 games. Since Opening Day 2012, no hitter has more homers than Encarnación's 297.

Last call:

After nearly two and a half decades in the big leagues, Vizquel was nearing the end of the line as the 2012 season began, just a few weeks shy of his 45th birthday. The Blue Jays were his sixth team, and by this time the 11-time Gold Glove Award winner was no longer playing shortstop regularly.

Vizquel didn't appear in this game until the 12th inning, taking over for Thames when Blue Jays manager John Farrell opted to use a five-infielder alignment after the Indians loaded the bases. He went hitless in two at-bats, though he scored on Arencibia's homer after reaching on a fielder's choice. Vizquel ended up playing 60 games for Toronto in 2012, hitting .235 with a .546 OPS.