The first month of the 2018 season is in the books. And what a month it was.April -- and the last three days of March -- brought some amazing moments, even unprecedented ones. From Aaron Judge to Shohei Ohtani to Sean Manaea to Ichiro Suzuki, players across the Major Leagues
The first month of the 2018 season is in the books. And what a month it was.
April -- and the last three days of March -- brought some amazing moments, even unprecedented ones. From Aaron Judge to Shohei Ohtani to Sean Manaea to Ichiro Suzuki, players across the Major Leagues gave fans some incredible feats during the season's opening month.
Here's a look at 14 history-making achievements that have already taken place this season.
1. Aaron Judge becomes the first player in Major League history with 60 home runs in fewer than 200 career games.
Judge set a rookie record by belting an American League-leading 52 home runs in 2017. He picked up right where he left off to open the 2018 season, becoming the fastest player, in terms of career games played, to reach 60 home runs, doing so in 197 games. The previous record was 60 homers in 202 career games, accomplished by Mark McGwire in 1988 (it was McGwire's rookie homer record of 49 in 1987 that Judge broke in 2017).
2. Josh Hader becomes the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out eight batters in an outing of fewer than three innings.
Hader came on in relief during the seventh inning of the Brewers' 6-5 victory over the Reds on the last night of April, and the left-hander was utterly dominant. Every out he recorded for his 2 2/3-inning save was a strikeout, setting a Major League record as the first pitcher with eight K's in an outing that short. Hader was also the first pitcher to record an eight-strikeout save of any length since Hall of Famer Randy Johnson for the Mariners on Aug. 13, 1996.
The 24-year-old faced nine batters on Monday night, and none put the ball in play against him (he walked one). Hader struck out Joey Votto, the first batter he faced and one of the game's premier hitters, on three pitches. And he continued to roll from there -- the performance lowered his season ERA to 1.00 over his 18 innings, spanning 11 appearances. In his two big league seasons, Hader has fanned 43 percent of the batters he's faced (107 of 250).
3. Nick Kingham becomes the first pitcher since expansion to throw 6 2/3 perfect innings in his MLB debut.
Kingham's first game was a long time coming. On the cusp of reaching the Majors in 2015, the Pirates right-hander's career was put on hold by Tommy John surgery. He finally made it to the big leagues, and his first game was spectacular. Facing the Cardinals in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Kingham retired the first 20 batters he faced before a Paul DeJong single with two outs in the seventh inning. The 26-year-old's 6 2/3 perfect innings were an expansion-era record (since 1961) for a pitcher in his first Major League game, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
4. Sean Manaea becomes the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter against a team with an .800 winning percentage or better (minimum five games into the season).
The A's left-hander no-hit Boston at Oakland Coliseum on April 21, silencing MLB's highest-scoring offense to that point in the season (123 runs scored). It was the first time a team with a winning percentage better than .800 -- the 17-2 Red Sox had an .895 winning percentage -- was no-hit at least five weeks into a season. Previously, the team with the highest winning percentage to be no-hit at that point was the 2003 Giants, who were no-hit by the Phillies' Kevin Millwood on April 27, 2003. With a record of 18-5, San Francisco entered that game with a .783 winning percentage.
5. Shohei Ohtani debuts with a month for the ages.
The two-way sensation has somehow lived up to his billing and more, dazzling on the mound and at the plate. Ohtani has four home runs as a hitter and 26 strikeouts as a pitcher, making him the first player with four or more batting home runs and 25 or more pitching strikeouts within the season's first month. And he's already homered off the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner (Corey Kluber) and struck out the reigning AL Most Valuable Player Award winner (Jose Altuve) -- the first to do both by the end of April.
6. Bryce Harper sets the National League record for unintentional walks in April.
The Nationals superstar fell just short of Barry Bonds' record for walks by the end of April -- Harper collected 38 bases on balls over the season's first month, while Bonds walked 39 times by the beginning of May 2004. But of Harper's 38 free passes, only eight were intentional, compared to the 18 intentional walks Bonds received. Harper is the only player in NL history to work 30 walks of the unintentional variety in the first month of a season. Gary Sheffield's 26 unintentional walks for the Marlins through April 1997 is the next-closest total.
7. The Red Sox have their best start in franchise history and Alex Cora has the best start to a season of any rookie manager.
Boston's 17-2 start was amazing by itself -- it was the franchise's best start to a season through 19 games. And it was even more amazing when you consider that it had a rookie skipper at the helm. Cora became the only first-year manager in baseball's modern era to start a season by winning at least 17 of his team's first 19 games. Another Red Sox manager, Joe Morgan, won 18 of his first 19 games managed in 1988, but he was a midseason replacement for John McNamara, and those wins were in July and August. So for season-opening runs, Cora stands alone.
8. Boston also slams its way into AL history.
On the final day of April, Xander Bogaerts crushed the Red Sox's sixth grand slam of the season. That made Boston the only team in AL history to hit six grand slams before May 1. (The 1996 Expos are the only NL team to do so.) Bogaerts bookended the Red Sox's six -- he also hit the team's first grand slam on April 7. Mookie Betts followed with one of April 10, J.D. Martinez hit another the next day, Rafael Devers added the fourth on April 18 and Mitch Moreland the fifth on April 20.
9. Didi Gregorius becomes the first shortstop with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs in his team's first 25 games.
Trevor Story hit 10 home runs in the Rockies' first 25 games as a rookie sensation in 2016. Two Orioles shortstops, Miguel Tejada in 2005 and Mike Bordick in '00, drove in 30 or more runs. But Gregorius is the only shortstop to have done both. On a team with Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, it was Gregorius who was the biggest offensive force for the Yankees. After reaching double-digit homers and 30 RBIs in game No. 25, Gregorius had an incredible hitting line of .368/.459/1.286.
10. The D-backs become the first NL team post-expansion to open a season with nine consecutive series wins.
The D-backs faced seven teams -- the Rockies, Dodgers, Cardinals, Giants, Padres, Phillies and Nationals (they had two series each against the Giants and Dodgers) -- in their streak of series victories. (The only other NL team in the modern era to win nine series to open a season was the 1907 Cubs.) Arizona gave the NL a present-day powerhouse to stand alongside the 116-game-winning 2001 Mariners, who were the last AL team to win nine straight series at the start of a season.
11. Ichiro becomes the oldest Opening Day starting outfielder.
Yes, it happened in March, but let's count it as having happened in the season's first month. On March 29, Ichiro jogged out to left field in Seattle, making his return to the Mariners franchise and fan base for whom he became an icon after coming to the Major Leagues in 2001. At 44 years and 158 days old, he was the oldest Opening Day outfield starter in MLB history. Only two older players had started a game in the outfield at any time -- Rickey Henderson for the 2003 Dodgers and Sam Rice for the 1934 Indians, both of whom were 44. Only one older position player of any kind had made an Opening Day starting lineup -- Julio Franco, at first base at age 43 for the Braves in 2004.
12. Bartolo Colon continues to defy his age, too.
Colon was masterful against Justin Verlander and the Astros on April 15 at Minute Maid Park. The 44-year-old right-hander took a perfect game into the eighth inning before Carlos Correa walked and Josh Reddick doubled. Colon tossed 7 2/3 innings, giving up one hit, walking one and striking out seven. Before Colon's performance, Nolan Ryan held the previous record for oldest pitcher to throw at least 7 2/3 innings in a game while giving up one hit or fewer, doing so in his no-hitter against the Blue Jays on May 1, 1991, at 44 years, 90 days old. Colon was 236 days older on April 15.
13. Giancarlo Stanton strikes out five times twice in the same week.
Stanton is the reigning NL MVP Award winner, but he made some unwanted history when he struck out five times on April 3 and again on April 8, just six games apart. Only two other players in Major League history have had multiple five-strikeout games in the same season -- and neither had two within a week of each other. Ray Lankford, who had a record three five-strikeout games in 1998, had held the previous record for fewest games between such performances: 13.
14. For the first time in MLB history, there were more strikeouts than hits in a month.
According to Elias, in the entire history of Major League Baseball, there has never been a month in which the strikeout total exceeded the hit total … until now. At the end of the first month of the season, there had been 7,335 strikeouts and 6,992 hits. With the rise of the "Three True Outcomes" belief -- home runs, walks and strikeouts -- in recent years, maybe it was only a matter of time. Hopefully the trend will swing the other way soon.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.