Opening day. A new season full of new possibilities and new hopes. Last season heading into the Blue Jays season opener we looked at the Top 10 season openers in franchise history. This year we’ll dig a little deeper and delve in to the Top 10 opening day performances.
So, what makes a good opening day performance? Helping your team secure the win obviously makes the list, but so does clubbing multiple home runs or driving in a boat load of runs. Ranking them by performances seems almost unfair. If one player has four RBI including the game-winning run does that make his performance greater than another player who socks two home runs and basically provides all the offense in a loss? We’ll leave that debate for another day and instead just enjoy the Top 10 opening day performances in chronological order. Here we go…
In the Blue Jays first-ever regular season game Doug Ault played the hero and set a number of franchise firsts. In the first inning Ault ripped a Ken Brett pitch over the wall to post the first hit and first home run in Blue Jays history. In his next at bat Ault clubbed a two-run blast to tie the game at 4-4. Ault’s day wasn’t over yet though, as he delivered again in the eighth with an RBI single.
Ault finished the game 3-4 with two home runs, three RBI and two runs scored to help get the Jays off a solid start in a 9-5 win.
The Blue Jays started off the 1980 season with an 8-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners, but it was a good day for John Mayberry. The Jays recorded nine hits in the game and Mayberry was responsible for nearly half of them and he also drove in most of the six runs scored.
Mayberry’s bat showed live immediately when he cracked a two-run home run off Mike Parrott in the first inning. He led off the fourth with a single only to be stranded in a scoreless frame. Leading off again in the sixth Mayberry rocked his second homer of the game and the eighth inning saw him lead-off the inning this time with a double. He’d come around to score on a Roy Howell single.
When the dust settled on the Jays’ 8-6 loss to Seattle, Mayberry finished up 4-5 with two home runs, three RBI and three runs scored.
The Bell tolled for the Kansas City Royals on opening day 1988 as George Bell led Toronto to a 5-3 win with a stout performance. Bell got the Jays on the board in the second inning with a lead-off solo home off Royals’ starter Brett Saberhagen. In his next trip to the plate in the fourth Bell hammered another Saberhagen offering to deep left centre for a two-run blast.
Bell’s reign of terror on Saberghagen continued in the eighth inning as he gave the Jays a two-run cushion with another solo home run.
The final line for Bell was 3-4 with three home runs, four RBI and three runs scored.
The lone pitcher to make the list, in 1992 Jack Morris became the first and remains the only Blue Jays starter to pitch a complete game on opening day. Morris, making his Blue Jay debut faced one of his former teams the Detroit Tigers. Morris began the game strong retiring the Tigers in order in the first inning. He ran into some trouble in the second after walking the lead-off man Cecil Fielder and surrendering a single to Mickey Tettleton. He struck out the next two batters, Tony Phillips and Rob Deer, but loaded the bases with two down after giving up a single to Travis Fryman. Morris quelled the potential big inning by sitting down Milt Cuyler with a strikeout on three pitches. Morris held the Tigers at bay for the next six innings, including striking out the side in the fourth and retiring the Tigers in order three times. He did run into some trouble in the ninth after giving up solo home runs to sluggers Fielder and Deer, but closed out the game to give Toronto a 4-2 victory.
Carlos Delgado – 1994
The Blue Jays entered the 1994 season as two-time defending World Series champions looking for a three-peat. In the season opener the Jays beat up on the White Sox 7-3. The left fielder in the game was Carlos Delgado. Delgado was a catching prospect at the time but the Jays had no room behind the plate with Pat Borders still calling games so Delgado found a home in left.
In his first at bat in the second inning Delgado collected his first career hit, a single off Jack McDowell. Delgado did his first real damage in the eighth inning. With Joe Carter on first and facing Dennis Cook Delgado destroyed a 1-1 pitch, knocking it off the windows of Hard Rock Café in deep centre field. The mammoth blast was the first of many for Delgado in Toronto and set the stage for a strong career.
Devon White – 1995
With the player’s strike behind them the Blue Jays started the 1995 season with a bang, throttling the Seattle Mariners 13-1. The loudest bat in that onslaught belonged to Devon White.
White led-off the first inning by legging out a triple and scored the game’s first run on a groundout. During an 11-run second inning White came to the plate twice. In his first appearance he drove in a pair on a double to right and scored on an Alex Gonzalez double right after. He drove in two more runs later in the inning by lashing a single to bring in Shawn Green and Ed Sprague.
White reached again on a walk in the fourth, but the A’s finally solved him in the sixth when he flied out to left.
White finished the rout 3-4 with four RBI and two runs scored. He also came a home run away from the cycle.
Jose Cruz Jr. – 1998
The Blue Jays eeked out 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on opening day 1998 thanks to a strong day at the plate from Jose Cruz Jr.
Cruz got the Blue Jays on the board in the second after smacking a two-run home run off Bob Tewksbury. In the fifth Cruz legged out a triple that scored Ed Sprague to put the Jays up 3-0.
Cruz struck again in the seventh with a single but was denied a chance at the cycle when he didn’t get to the plate in the ninth.
Cruz was the Blue Jays offense in the win, going 3-3 with a home run, three RBI and a run scored.
The Blue Jays edged the Kansas City Royals 5-4 on opening day 2000 behind the heavy bat and wonky batting stance of Tony Batista.
Batista made his presence known in the fourth inning with a two-run home run off Jeff Suppan. Batista reached base again in the seventh after ripping a single into left, but he wasn’t there long after getting tagged out a second trying to stretch it into a double.
In the bottom of the ninth Batista sent the fans home happy after hitting a walk-off solo home run off Jerry Spradlin. Batista’s final stats were 3-4 with two home runs, three RBI and two runs scored.
Darrin Fletcher – 2002
Runs were plentiful on opening day 2002 as the Blue Jays got past the Boston Red Sox 12-11. Darrin Fletcher, facing his old battery mate Pedro Martinez got the better of the Red Sox ace with a two-run double in the first inning.
In the fifth inning Fletcher was up against future Blue Jay Darren Oliver and delivered an RBI single to score Carlos Delgado.
In the ninth Fletcher plated the winning run. It wasn’t too exciting though as Fletcher drove in Raul Mondesi from third on a sac fly. Fletcher finished the game 2-4 with four RBI.
Adam Lind – 2009
On opening day 2009 Adam Lind was a one-man wrecking crew in the Blue Jays’ 12-5 win over the Detroit Tigers.
In his first at bat of the game Lind stepped in against Justin Verlander with runners on second and third. A single to right field plated both runners to give the Jays an early 2-0 lead. Lind delivered another single in the third inning and in the fourth, after Verlander had been sent to the showers early, Lind cracked a three-run blast off Eddie Bonine.
Lind drove in another run in the eighth inning with a single to finish the game 4-5 with a home run, six RBI and two runs scored.