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30 teams, 30 first impressions

@williamfleitch
July 27, 2020

Baseball returned over the weekend. Did you catch that? What a weekend it was. It was goofy and exciting, sometimes awkward and disorienting and a total blast. This whole season is going to be like nothing we have seen before -- sometimes uncertain, always riveting. So, to celebrate this first

Baseball returned over the weekend. Did you catch that? What a weekend it was. It was goofy and exciting, sometimes awkward and disorienting and a total blast. This whole season is going to be like nothing we have seen before -- sometimes uncertain, always riveting.

So, to celebrate this first weekend, we look at one curious, fascinating, impressive, fun or downright weird thing from each team over the first three games (four for the Dodgers and Giants).

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Cavan Biggio looks like the best 1990s Superstar Spawn Kid right now. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are the highlights, but Biggio, who was less heralded as a prospect, was the best player of the first weekend and was largely responsible for Toronto's lone win. He started that game with a bunt single and finished off the scoring for the Blue Jays with a three-run homer.

Orioles: The Orioles are over .500! Seriously. The Orioles are over .500. What more do you need than that?

Rays: Ji-Man Choi made you think you were watching him through a mirror. Choi had been toying with batting right-handed from time to time, but he had never tried it in a Major League game until Sunday. He not only homered, but his solo shot had a higher exit velocity (109.1 mph per Statcast) than any of his 36 previous career homers batting left-handed.

Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi just can’t pick a number. As if Red Sox pitchers didn’t have enough problems this weekend, Eovaldi switched numbers, and then switched back, in the same game. (He got hot, went to change and grabbed the wrong jersey.) Considering how that staff looked against the Orioles, I’d try to hide, too.

Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton is back. The slugger hit two monster home runs over the weekend, and somehow, the one he hit in the first inning of the first baseball game since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country was the less impressive one. (His second had an exit velocity of 121.7 mph, his hardest-hit homer since 2018.)

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians: We did not appear to be wrong about the starters. The delay to the start of the season meant that the Indians’ top three pitchers were all healthy, and they were thus considered a key strength coming into the 60-game regular season. Their first weekend, uh, went well: Carlos Carrasco, Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger threw a combined 18 innings, giving up four runs, 13 hits and two walks while striking out 30.

Royals: Salvador Perez looks happy to be back. In his first game since 2018, the beloved Royals catcher went deep, and he currently has the highest slugging percentage and OPS on the team. It is actively pleasing to see him back.

Tigers: Miguel Cabrera is off to a slow start, but he can still wow you. The Tigers were surprisingly powerful in Cincinnati over the weekend -- C.J. Cron looks like a perfect fit -- but Cabrera didn’t get in on much of the action, going 1-for-11 in the three-game series. But his one hit was a long two-run homer on Saturday that gave Detroit a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

Twins: Nelson Cruz! Honestly, Cruz is going to be hitting homers when he is collecting social security. There is one man in baseball who has three home runs. It is of course Cruz. He's 40 years old and had seven RBIs on Sunday. Mercy.

White Sox: Good heavens, that offense. Luis Robert was the eyes-popping-out-of-head talent this weekend, but it’s worth noting that for all his brilliance, he is fourth on the White Sox in slugging right now, behind Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada and Leury García. The White Sox are an oncoming train.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Angels: Looks like Mike Trout is still finding new ways to be amazing. The most remarkable stat about Trout is that he has never won a postseason game. But the second is that he’d never homered off a 3-0 pitch. Until Sunday, that is. Maybe 2020 will end up taking care of both of those.

Astros: Justin Verlander (sad face). The world of baseball is undeniably worse without Verlander as part of it. And because of a forearm strain, it looks like Verlander isn’t going to be a part of it for a bit. But just how long is yet to be determined.

A's: Jesús Luzardo doesn’t need any warmups. The A’s phenom missed all of Summer Camp, showed up in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game and … looked like one of the best pitchers in baseball, throwing three scoreless innings. Wait until he really gets going.

Mariners: They finally beat the Astros! Heading into Sunday, Seattle had lost to Houston a stunning 15 consecutive times. That ended with a 7-6 victory over a Houston team that had a very, very bad day.

Rangers: The new park must be hard to hit at. The Rockies and Rangers combined for only 13 runs in three games at the new Globe Life Field this weekend.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Marcell Ozuna looks like he’s now ready to have his contract year. Ozuna was a disappointment in St. Louis, leading to a one-year, make-good contract this year, but he sure is showing plenty of power in Atlanta, including a ninth-inning homer on Saturday that led to a comeback victory. Being a designated hitter looks good on him.

Marlins: Look out Teddy Ballgame, Miguel Rojas is after you. There has been much speculation about whether or not anyone would hit .400 in this shortened season. The clubhouse leader after the first three games is … Rojas, who went 7-for-10 over the weekend. .700!

Mets: Yoenis Céspedes is just the best. That solo home run he hit to lift the Mets to a 1-0 win on Opening Day was as classic a Céspedes moment as you will find in a career full of them. And don’t forget this immortal fact:

Phillies: Phil Gosselin, chasing history. Gosselin has been in the Majors since 2013, and is on his sixth team. He hit a career-high three homers over 106 at-bats in '15. Now, he's only one away from tying that in '20, as he hit a pair of homers on Saturday.

Nationals: Looks like the bullpen's going to be a thing again. It could have turned out to have been quite a weekend salvage for the Nats, with a handy series win on the heels of a terrific Patrick Corbin start against the Yankees. But as Nats fans have seen all too often, the bullpen, even the two most trusted guys (Will Harris and Sean Doolittle), made it go sideways.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Christian Yelich went 1-for-13! Did you know that was even possible? At least his one hit was a homer.

Cardinals: Yadier Molina looks about a decade younger than he is -- at least. If you hadn’t seen him, the legendary Molina shed many pounds in the offseason and looks downright shredded. He also picked a guy off first and threw out a potential basestealer in consecutive innings on Sunday.

Cubs: The Cubs are apparently a pitching team now? Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Jason Heyward went a combined 6-for-45 this weekend … but the Cubs pitched so well that they won two out of three vs. the Brewers anyway.

Pirates: Welcome to the bigs, JT. Many rookies made their debuts in the strangest possible fashions this weekend, but particularly impressive was JT Brubaker, a 26-year-old right-hander who struck out four Cardinals in two key innings Sunday to get manager Derek Shelton his first victory. Shelton had a fun weekend finally making his managerial debut, including coming out to put a mask on to get in an argument with an umpire.

Reds: Eugenio Suárez would like a restart. The Reds had a rough weekend -- you’re going to need to win your games against Detroit if you’re going to win the NL Central this year -- and Suárez, a player many considered a sleeper NL MVP Award candidate, wasn’t much help. He went 0-for-11, the most at-bats any player compiled this weekend without getting a hit.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: The Martes look like they’re going to have to carry this team. The D-backs had 19 hits over the weekend, and eight of them came from Ketel Marte and Starling Marté (no relation). Arizona was lucky to not be the only winless team entering Monday.

Dodgers: You cannot hurt them. You get a bummer diagnosis like Clayton Kershaw’s back injury? No problem: Here’s Dustin May to fill in, looking like … well, like one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Giants: They are not going to let the Dodgers totally push them around. After getting blown out in the first two games in Los Angeles, they battled back on Saturday and Sunday to split the four-game series. Any win against the Dodgers should be celebrated this season.

Padres: Those blazing Padres! More than half the teams in baseball don’t have a single stolen base, but San Diego has seven.

Rockies: Daniel Bard is already one of the best stories in baseball this decade. He flamed out in 2013 because of the yips, bounced around the Minors for years, had basically retired, came back and earned the win in his Rockies debut on Saturday while pumping in 98-mph fastballs. This is a feel-good story for the ages.