Thrills, chills: Opening Day's best moments

April 2nd, 2021

Opening Day was going to be exciting no matter what happened: It’s Opening Day! But, true to form, Opening Day was full of incredible moments, moments that were iconic the second they happened. They’re moments that would have been thrilling had they happened any day other than Opening Day. But now they’re even more special.

And the good news? There are six months more of days just like this one.

Here are the top moments of Opening Day.

1) Fernando Tatis Jr.’s swim move back into first base

Fernando Tatis Jr. has made a habit of mind-blowing elusive slides back into first base; here’s a particularly fun one against the Braves a couple of years ago. But this one -- eluding a tag from Arizona’s Christian Walker on a pickoff throw from catcher Stephen Vogt -- was even better, because it, unlike some of the others, almost seemed planned. Not that he was trying to get picked off first base, but once he realized he was toast -- and he was toast -- it was as if he decided to pull out a swim move he’d been working on for a while. He made a play that’s pretty much impossible look easy. Your kids are going to be diving into bases like this all year.

Added bonus: He came around to score on an Eric Hosmer double in a game the Padres won by one run.

2) Miguel Cabrera’s Winter Wonderland homer

Somebody has to hit the first homer of the year every year, but this one had so much going on beyond that.

First off, it’s Miguel Cabrera, who is now 12 homers away from 500. Second, he did it in a pounding snow storm. (How many homers has Cabrera hit in the snow before? This has to be his first, right?) Third, he did it off the defending AL Cy Young winner and the Tigers won. But our personal favorite bit is how he slid into second base, not realizing the ball had cleared the fence. Miggy’s slides still look great, don’t they? Particularly when it is snowing.

3) Cody Bellinger’s worst-case-scenario homer

It is incredibly hard to hit a home run in the Major Leagues: Let’s see you try it. So when you get one, you want it to count. Bellinger thought he had given the Dodgers a 2-0 lead over the Rockies when the ball he hit into left field bounced off the glove of Raimel Tapia and over the fence. But Justin Turner, who was on first base, thought Tapia had caught it, so he was sprinting back to first base … passing Bellinger along the way. That made Bellinger out. Turner still scored on the homer, except it’s now an RBI single, and … well, if Bellinger ends up with 72 homers this year, one short of the single-season record, he’ll be kicking Turner about that all winter. The Dodgers ended up losing by three runs (8-5), but who knows how the game would have turned out had this been a two-run homer?

4) Roman Quinn nails Ozzie Albies at the plate

The Phillies and Braves are going to be throwing haymakers at each other all year -- it’s what this division does -- and they played a doozy on Opening Day. Tied heading into the 10th, reliever Connor Brogdon faced the unenviable situation of having to face Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna with a runner (a fast one in Albies) already on second. After getting Freeman to ground out, pushing Albies to third, Brogdon jammed Ozuna, who flied into shallow center toward Quinn. Shallow center is usually enough to score Albies, but Quinn threw a strike (and was helped by Albies’ slight hesitation) to nail him at the plate, thanks to a great tag from J.T. Realmuto. The Phillies got a walk-off single from Jean Segura in the bottom half of the inning. These teams are going to be sick of each other by the end of the year.

5) Mike Trout announces he’s ready for a big year

Dunno if you’ve heard this or not, but Trout has never won a playoff game. But the Angels are a trendy postseason pick this year, and Trout sure has the look in his eye of a guy who is done messing around. Trout came up with two on and no out in the bottom of the eighth against the White Sox, and a favorable matchup against Aaron Bummer, a good pitcher but a lefty who keeps the ball low in the zone … right where Trout likes it. His laser shot of an RBI single tied a game the Angels would ultimately win, but the real revelation was how pumped Trout was after the hit. Who says Trout doesn’t play with emotion? More of that, please.

6) The Brewers walk it off

We had to have at least one Opening Day walk-off hit on this list, and the first one came during this compelling matchup of Central Division stalwarts in both leagues. The Twins took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but the Brewers, in front of a raucous crowd that had clearly missed cheering on the Brew Crew, scored three runs in the bottom half, capped off by a two-run, two-out double from Travis Shaw. That led to Orlando Arcia’s high hopper in the 10th, scoring Lorenzo Cain … but just barely. That’s the sort of Opening Day excitement you don’t forget.

7) Tyler Glasnow freezes Magneuris Sierra

Worried about the Rays without Blake Snell and Charlie Morton? Maybe you shouldn’t be. Glasnow has long been thought to have the best pure stuff on that staff, and he sure did put it together on Thursday, tossing six scoreless innings, giving up only one hit and no walks. He had six strikeouts as well, including his definitive final one on poor Sierra, who never had a chance. If Glasnow has figured out how to get his results to match his stuff, look out.

8) Ke’Bryan Hayes launches his Rookie of the Year campaign

The Pirates may be in for a rough season, but it’s going to be a joy to watch Hayes every at-bat, whatever the rest of his team is doing. Hayes is the preseason favorite for NL Rookie of the Year, and he showed why by smashing a two-run homer at Wrigley Field in the top of the first inning, giving the Pirates a lead they would never lose. Hayes may already be one of those players whose at-bats you absolutely cannot miss.

9) A rookie keys M’s crazy comeback

Taylor Trammell made his MLB debut for Seattle on Opening Day, starting in center field with Kyle Lewis out, and we’re sorry to say that he did not get the first hit of his MLB career. But there’s plenty of time for that, because Trammell had the at-bat of the game, drawing a bases-loaded walk, including fighting off two tough 3-2 pitches, that marked his first RBI as a big leaguer. But more to the point: It kept the rally going, and what a rally it was. The Mariners trailed the Giants 6-1 entering that eighth, and his walk made it 6-3. Trammell would end up scoring the tying run in a six-run inning that would have never happened without his battle, and the Mariners ended up winning on Jake Fraley's walk-off walk in the 10th ... with Trammell drawing another crucial walk to lead off the frame. He won’t forget his debut anytime soon. Neither will Mariners fans.

10) Randal Grichuk throws down the gauntlet in the AL East

Perhaps no team wanted to make a serious first impression more than the Blue Jays, who spent considerable capital this offseason to try to catch the Yankees in the AL East. One game won’t get them all the way there, but if you’re looking to set a tone, beating the Yankees in a game started by Gerrit Cole at Yankee Stadium in the season opener is a terrific way to do it. The big hit was Grichuk’s opposite-field double to lead off the top of the 10th, scoring Jonathan Davis and giving the Jays a lead they would not relinquish. (Remember, we’re starting a runner on second in extra innings again, hence the leadoff RBI double.)

11) Buster Posey seems happy to be back

No one begrudged Posey for choosing not to play in the 2020 season, not with those two infant girls he adopted right before the season began. But it was still a bummer not to get to watch a former MVP and three-time World Series champion play a game for a year and a half. So it was a delight just to see him back at all on Opening Day. When he hit the third pitch he’d seen in 18 months over the left-field wall, though, it was cause for unbridled joy. We sure had missed the guy.