Opening Day is always a joyous occasion, and this year’s start to the season was special on many fronts. From the seven games played to inaugurate the 2022 campaign Thursday, we were treated to heroics from baseball’s No. 1 prospect making his MLB debut, a vintage performance from a pitcher who made his big league debut 17 years ago, a record-tying run of Opening Day success, and much more. Here are seven amazing facts from seven amazing season openers:
A walking start
Cubs 5, Brewers 4
One of the joys of baseball is how you can always expect it to deliver the unexpected. And the 2022 season didn’t even get through its first inning before we got a stark reminder of that fact.
In 2021, Brewers ace Corbin Burnes ignited a run to NL Cy Young Award honors by racking up 49 strikeouts and zero walks over his first five starts. In fact, Burnes faced 126 batters before issuing his first free pass. So what happened with Burnes on the mound for Opening Day at Wrigley Field? He walked Cubs leadoff man Rafael Ortega, because of course he did. Burnes finished with three walks in five innings -- more than he had over his first seven outings last year.
A Royal debut
Royals 3, Guardians 1
No. 1 overall prospect Bobby Witt Jr. showed off his exciting tools in his MLB debut for Kansas City:
- He hit one ball with a 110.4 mph exit velocity -- the hardest-hit ball of the game for either team (and well above the "hard-hit" threshold of 95-plus mph).
- He had a sprint speed of 30.8 feet per second on one of his runs on the bases -- 30-plus ft/sec is elite MLB speed.
- He made an 88.6 mph throw from third base, which he got rid of in just 0.70 seconds, to get the speedy Andres Gimenez on a groundout.
- For his first career hit, a go-ahead RBI double in the eighth inning, he lined a ball into the left-field corner off a pitch that was well above the strike zone -- 3.86 feet high. The Royals only had five hits off higher pitches all of last season.
Uncle Charlie still going strong
Cardinals 9, Pirates 0
Adam Wainwright decided to come back for another season with the Cardinals -- one that could prove to be his last, alongside Yadier Molina and the returning Albert Pujols. And so far, so good.
Wainwright mostly cruised through six scoreless innings against the Bucs, and he did it at 40 years and 220 days old. That made him the fourth-oldest AL/NL pitcher to post a scoreless outing of at least that length on Opening Day, going back to 1901. He trails only Rip Sewell of the 1949 Pirates (41 years, 343 days), Charlie Hough of the 1989 Rangers (41 years, 89 days) and Roger Clemens of the 2003 Yankees (40 years, 239 days).
Mets 5, Nationals 1
He entered his Opening Day start against the Nationals -- on the road -- as the most inexperienced pitcher to ever take the mound to open the season for the Mets. When it was all said and done, Tylor Megill left the mound after five scoreless innings in which he yielded just three hits while walking none and striking out six.
While Mets fans were surely disappointed they didn’t get to see Jacob deGrom or Max Scherzer make the Opening Day start, they’d take Megill’s performance any day. In fact, a Mets starter went at least five scoreless innings while walking none and fanning at least six on just three occasions in 2021, and each of those performances was authored by deGrom.
Megill’s four-seam fastball averaged 94.6 mph during his 2021 rookie campaign. In Thursday night’s season opener, it averaged 96.1 mph and topped out at 99.1 mph.
Reds 6, Braves 3
Brandon Drury delivered a three-run homer to break the game open in the sixth inning, extending Cincinnati’s lead to 6-1 over the defending World Series champs. Overall, the veteran utilityman went 2-for-4 on the night, driving in three runs in a game for the first time in nearly three years -- the previous occasion was on Aug. 12, 2019, when Drury drove in five for the Blue Jays against the Rangers.
Astros make it 10 straight on Opening Day
Astros 3, Angels 1
History was made on both sides in the Astros-Angels Opening Day matchup, but Houston’s achievement involved winning the game, whereas the Halos’ was another individual feat for reigning AL MVP Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani became the first player in AL/NL history to both throw his team’s first pitch of the season and then take his team’s first plate appearance of the season on Thursday night, striking out nine batters over 4 2/3 innings but going 0-for-4 at the plate.
The Astros, meanwhile, tied an AL/NL record by winning their 10th consecutive Opening Day contest thanks to back-to-back homers from Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez in the eighth inning. Houston’s 10 consecutive Opening Day victories are tied with the Boston Beaneaters’ run from 1887-96.
Walk-off homer on National Beer Day? Leave it to Beer
D-backs 4, Padres 2
After being no-hit by Yu Darvish for the first six innings of the season opener at Chase Field, the D-backs’ prospects for an Opening Day win appeared dim. But had they looked at the calendar and seen that Thursday was not only Opening Day, but also National Beer Day, they may have had an inkling as to who their hero would need to be.
Pavin Smith broke up the no-no by singling to open the bottom of the seventh against Padres reliever Tim Hill, and in the bottom of the ninth, Seth Beer smashed a walk-off three-run homer off Craig Stammen to lift the D-backs to victory on what was undoubtedly Beer’s day. It was Beer’s second career home run after he homered in his first career at-bat on Sept. 10 of last season, and his first career walk-off shot. Beer also became the first rookie in MLB history to hit a walk-off homer with his team trailing on Opening Day.