Halladay solid, but Jays drop opener
Toronto fights hard, but New York breaks tie in seventh
NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays would've loved nothing more than to storm into The House that Ruth Built to crash the Yankees' party. Toronto came close to doing just that on Tuesday night, but the final Opening Day in Yankee Stadium history belonged to New York.
Roy Halladay did his part, taking the mound in the storied ballpark and ignoring the raucous crowd that greeted Toronto's ace in his inaugural start of the 2008 season. Halladay sliced his way through New York's dangerous lineup with only a handful of misplaced pitches scattered throughout his outing.
One ill-fated pitch in particular met up with a smooth sixth-inning swing by New York center fielder Melky Cabrera, leading to the type of home run the ballpark in the Bronx has been known to create. Combine that with a handful of blunders by the Blue Jays, and the result was a 3-2 loss to the Yankees.
Not long after Halladay was yelling in frustration on the field, the hometown fans were singing "New York, New York" as they exited the stadium. It wasn't how the Jays wanted to open the season, but it was an effort Halladay hopes to see continued in the coming months, in which Toronto intends to keep pace with the Yankees and Red Sox in the American League East.
"It was a competitive game," said Halladay, shrugging off Toronto's season-opening loss to the Yankees. "That's what we need to do all year and, obviously, they're known for that. We just came up on the wrong end."
Cabrera was a thorn in the Blue Jays' side throughout the first of 19 meetings between the two clubs this season. The outfielder began by using his glove to toy with Toronto's hitters in the fourth inning. With the score knotted at two runs apiece, Cabrera slammed into the center-field wall as he snared a fly ball off the bat of Lyle Overbay for the frame's second out.
One batter later, Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill drove a pitch from Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang (1-0) toward the gap in left-center field. Cabrera sprinted to his right and made a last-second dive, tumbling to the grass with the baseball securely in his glove for the inning's final out.
"That was the difference in the game today -- their defense," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We got robbed a couple times."
Toronto carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning, but Cabrera wasn't through tormenting the visitors. Halladay (0-1), who turned in seven innings, fired a cut fastball inside on the left-handed Cabrera, who lofted the offering high into the air down the right-field line. The ball came crashing down just beyond the wall, staying just inside the foul pole to tie the game at 2.
"They got that big home run by Cabrera," said Gibbons, who couldn't help but smirk. "The Yankee Stadium patented home run. But it was a good ballgame -- a good hard-fought ballgame."
Following Cabrera's blast, Halladay could be seen shouting in frustration. It appeared as though the pitcher might've been yelling at Cabrera, or some of the Yankees players seated in the home dugout, but Halladay said he was simply angry at himself.
"You're just out there pitching," said Halladay, who struck out three and walked two in the loss. "I was obviously upset there was a home run, but it was nothing directed towards them."
Even so, it was the kind of intensity Gibbons has grown accustomed to seeing from Halladay -- a perfectionist when it comes to his craft.
|"The end result isn't what we wanted. But that's why you play so many games during the season. We've got to come back and play them tough again."|
|-- Roy Halladay|
"He's an emotional guy," Gibbons said. "He's so intense, and he'll show that out there -- that's part of who he is. He demands so much out of himself. He's tough on himself. Whatever he gives up, he wears it on his sleeve sometimes. You wish more guys did that. But he pitched great -- he really did."
Halladay was handling the Yankees' lineup with his usual style, inducing 15 outs via ground ball -- four on double plays. In the seventh inning, though, it was a pair of double plays gone wrong that contributed to Toronto's defeat. The game's decisive inning opened with Halladay yielding a single to Alex Rodriguez and issuing a walk to Jason Giambi.
New York's next batter, Robinson Cano, chopped a pitch from Halladay to the right of second base, where Toronto shortstop David Eckstein and Hill both were heading toward the grounder. Eckstein ran in front of Hill and gloved the ball, but could only retire Cano at first after being unable to tag Giambi.
Hill was in a position to make the play, which might've led to a double play, but he didn't question Eckstein's decision.
"We looked at it after the game here, and it was one of those plays that probably won't ever happen again," Hill said. "It was just one of those weird plays. Luckily it happened so if something like that happens again [we'll be prepared]. But I'll never call [Eckstein] off when he's coming across, because that's his ball. He did the right thing."
With one out and runners on second and third base, Halladay opted to intentionally walk Yankees catcher Jorge Posada to load the bases. New York's Hideki Matsui followed by sending a pitch up the middle, where Hill attempted to make a backhanded grab.
The baseball bounced off Hill's glove, but he retrieved it in time to make a desperate flip to Eckstein, who made a barehanded catch to force the runner out at second base. While Hill and Eckstein scrambled to record the inning's second out, Rodriguez crossed home plate to put New York ahead, 3-2 -- a lead the Yankees never relinquished.
"That happens," Hill said about the botched play. "It was one where I just didn't get down quick enough. It came on me a little faster than I was anticipating, but it happens. You've got to bounce back, because it's the first game of the year. A lot more is going to happen."
There's still plenty of time for Toronto to rain on New York's parade. It just wasn't meant to be on Opening Day.
"The end result isn't what we wanted," Halladay said. "But that's why you play so many games during the season. We've got to come back and play them tough again."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.