Another year, another crazy, memorable Opening Day.And this one had an extra special feel thanks to #CapsOn, as fans all over the country showed their support by donning the hat of their favorite club in celebration of this baseball holiday. Monday's collection of games included greatness from many of the
Another year, another crazy, memorable Opening Day.
And this one had an extra special feel thanks to #CapsOn, as fans all over the country showed their support by donning the hat of their favorite club in celebration of this baseball holiday. Monday's collection of games included greatness from many of the usual suspects and memories that will last forever for guys we're just getting to know. It was a fitting follow-up to Sunday's tripleheader, which was capped off by the Royals raising their World Series banner and beating the Mets (again) with defense, situational hitting and aggressive baserunning.
From Wily Peralta's first pitch at Miller Park to Miguel Castro's last out in the Rockies' victory in Arizona, Major League Baseball's 141st Opening Day was a celebration of extraordinary players and a preview of the drama ahead in a season where almost anything seems possible.
But there's no need to get ahead of ourselves. Take a moment to consider what we've already seen. Here were my 10 favorite moments from Monday's nine openers:
One more time for the ace and the orator
Maybe you can think of a better way to start a season than to hear Vin Scully describing a Clayton Kershaw start, but not me. I wanted to hear what Vinny would say off the top, and in the first inning, after informing his SNLA audience that the new Padres manager is a former infielder named Andrew Mulligan Green, he did not disappoint.
"Kershaw, the numbers are remarkable," said Scully, who is working his 67th season as the Dodgers' announcer and plans to retire when it's over. "For instance, last year, 301 strikeouts and only 42 walks … big swing and a miss by Jon Jay … Kershaw, that makes him No. 1 in Major League Baseball history … this is his sixth Opening Day assignment. He is three wins, no losses, earned-run average of one-point-one-four."
And that was before Kershaw carved up the Padres, holding them to a Jay single in seven shutout innings of a 15-0 victory. Make it 4-0 with an 0.93 ERA for Kershaw on Opening Day. The last time the Dodgers lost on Opening Day, by the way, Vicente Padilla was their starting pitcher.
Borrowing a page from Stephen Curry
It's become popular to say that the NBA's reigning MVP is also that league's most improved player. Imagine if we're saying that about Bryce Harper in a month or two.
Harper pulled a home run into the seats in the right-field bleachers in his first at-bat of the season. He had fouled off three two-strike pitches from Julio Teheran and watched Anthony Rendon get picked off first base, then crushed a belt-high slider that didn't slide much. The Nationals would go on to win 4-3 in 10 innings.
Thanks for the start, skip
Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett hit .114 against left-handers last season, but he spent the spring lobbying manager Craig Counsell to give him a shot to be a full-time player, not a platoon player.
"You can't hit what you're not allowed to see,'' Gennett said in the clubhouse before Monday's game.
Counsell started Gennett, and he responded with a lefty-lefty homer off Madison Bumgarner in the second inning. Even Gennett's mouth opened wide watching the ball sail into the loge level in right field. It was not only the first homer he has ever hit off of a lefty in his career, but Statcast™ tracked it at 108.5 mph, which was almost 5 mph faster than any ball he hit all of last year. It was a bright spot in a 12-3 loss to the Giants, who brought some thunder of their own. Speaking of which ...
There it goes (and goes and goes again)
The Giants' Denard Span, Joe Panik and Buster Posey hit back-to-back-to-back homers off Brewers reliever Ariel Pena. That hadn't happened on Opening Day since 1997.
Some singles are as good as home runs
Matt Wieters ' game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth was a nice reward for Baltimore fans who remained at Camden Yards through two extended rain delays. It gave the Orioles a 3-2 victory over the Twins, which, of course, was highlighted by the contact hitting of a guy Dan Duquette acquired for his power, Mark Trumbo. He had four singles, including including a two-out hit in the ninth that set up Wieters' game-winner. Consider this a strong first impression.
Few pitchers ever make Joey Votto look silly. But Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson tied him in knots. He not only struck him out three times, but the two-strike hacks were all of the emergency variety, seeming unusually awkward. So naturally Votto dropped a two-run single over shortstop to turn a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 Reds lead in the eighth inning. Who cares what happened before then? Final score: Reds 6, Phillies, 2.
Salute to a real veteran
Rangers replay coordinator Bobby Jones, a Vietnam War veteran who is entering his 50th year in baseball, threw out a ceremonial pitch before the Rangers beat the Mariners, 3-2. Jones, a 36th-round pick of the Washington Senators in 1967, fired a 105 mm howitzer during a 14-month assignment overseas while most Major League players and top prospects received spots in National Guard units that never were deployed in Asia.
"I don't think I'd be here today if I hadn't gone to Vietnam,'' Jones told me in Spring Training. "I came back bigger and stronger. I came back hungrier, and a lot more humble. It gave me an appreciation for little things I didn't have. From then on, if I was in a slump, you couldn't tell it. I knew how life was. I had both arms and both legs, and I was playing a game. If I didn't make it, that's OK. I would do something else.''
But he never had to … sweet.
Textbook call, if not slide
In the bottom of the seventh inning in Atlanta, the Braves' Nick Markakis steamed into second base, seemingly breaking up a double play. Except that he overslid the bag, which is not allowed under the new rules put in play after the Chase Utley slide that broke Ruben Tejada's leg last October.
Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy pointed out Markakis' transgression, and umpire Paul Nauert agreed. He ruled an automatic double play, which was the right call. Here's the amazing part: Fredi Gonzalez did not go on the field and argue. Some managers would still be on the field arguing.
Trevor Story … what a tale
Stole that line from an Anthony Castrovince tweet, but who wouldn't? Story's three-run homer off Zack Greinke was the biggest moment for anyone in a Major League debut on Monday, and he followed it with a solo shot off Greinke the next time up as the Rockies spoiled Greinke's D-backs debut with a 10-5 win.
The first Story homer was the fourth of five consecutive hits by Colorado off Greinke, who signed with Arizona after compiling a 1.66 ERA last season. That opposite-field blast over the right-field fence was hardly out of the blue. Story hit 20 homers last year in the high Minors and had six in 53 at-bats in Spring Training. He is getting his chance to play because Jose Reyes has been on leave pending an allegation of domestic violence, and it appears Story plans to make the most of it.
Story wasn't the only Rockie to do noteworthy damage off Greinke. Carlos Gonzalez's blast had an exit velocity of 117.4 mph. The only player to have one with a higher exit velocity last year was Giancarlo Stanton, who did it twice.
Seems like old times
National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta picked up where he left off, to the chagrin of the Angels. Mike Trout had homered in his first at-bat the past two seasons -- off Felix Hernandez both times, oddly enough -- but Arrieta got him to hit a soft line drive to Ben Zobrist the first time up, setting the tone for a dominating performance. Arrieta held the Angels to two hits in seven innings with six strikeouts -- including Trout twice -- in the Cubs' 9-0 victory. The Cubs' march on history has begun.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.