At precisely 12:43 p.m. ET Thursday afternoon, Marlins right-hander Jose Urena opened the 2018 Major League Baseball season by throwing Cubs leadoff man Ian Happ a 96-mph fastball down the middle of the plate.Time seemed to stand still in that moment as it does every year. We'd waited so long
At precisely 12:43 p.m. ET Thursday afternoon, Marlins right-hander Jose Urena opened the 2018 Major League Baseball season by throwing Cubs leadoff man Ian Happ a 96-mph fastball down the middle of the plate.
Time seemed to stand still in that moment as it does every year. We'd waited so long for Opening Day, five months in all, and after all the comings and goings and speculating and prognosticating, we finally had honest-to-goodness, play-for-keeps, regular-season baseball.
Did we mention that Happ hammered that first pitch of the season into the right-field seats at Marlins Park and that the Cubs seem to have found both a permanent leadoff hitter and their next star? Oh, and he became the first player since Kaz Matsui of the 2004 Mets to homer on the first pitch of his team's season, and the first since Dwight Evans of the 1986 Red Sox to go deep on the first pitch of the baseball season.
This Opening Day delivered on all sorts of levels, with moments of high drama, emotion along with some wonderful hardball.
• Did you know? Facts from Opening Day 2018
Let's check out 10 moments that made it special:
1. Giancarlo Stanton introduces himself to Yankees fans
What's that someone once said about having only one chance to make a first impression? Stanton did that in style by hitting one cannon shot of a home run in the first inning and another in the ninth inning. Brett Gardner hit one as well as the Yankees opened with a 6-1 victory in Toronto. (Stanton's 117.3 mph home run in the first inning is the hardest opposite-field homer since Statcast™ started tracking.)
2. Matt Davidson makes history
Davidson finished the 2017 season in such a slump that it wasn't clear he'd even make the White Sox this spring. Instead, he spent an offseason studying video and honing his swing mechanics. Davidson had a terrific spring with four home runs and a 1.005 OPS, and he talked about how he was imitating White Sox legend Paul Konerko in terms of work ethic and approach. Thursday, all that work paid off as he became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three homers on Opening Day in a 14-7 victory over the Royals.
• 3 HRs on Opening Day? Only 4 have done it
These weren't just home runs. These were rockets, with Statcast™ measuring the exit velocities at 115.1 mph, 114.0 mph and 113.9 mph. This is the first time Statcast™ has measured three 110-plus mph homers by one player in a game.
3. George Springer is really good on Opening Day (and most other days, too)
The World Series MVP became the first player to hit a leadoff home run on consecutive Opening Days. Springer led off the top of the first inning in Arlington with an opposite-field home run to right off Rangers starter Cole Hamels in what would become a 4-1 win for the defending champs. Since World Series Game 2, Springer has homered six times in seven games. The Astros are 179-121 since manager AJ Hinch put Springer atop his lineup in 2016.
4. Shohei Ohtani begins the great experiment
Angels manager Mike Scioscia batted Ohtani eighth and watched happily as his designated hitter singled on the first pitch he saw in the Major Leagues. That was his only hit in five at-bats, as the Halos fell, 6-5, to the A's in 11 innings. Next up for Ohtani: He is scheduled to make his mound debut for the Angels on Sunday afternoon in Oakland.
5. Anthony Rizzo hits a homer with personal significance
Rizzo is a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which is the school where 17 students were killed in a mass shooting last month and is located less than an hour north of Miami, where the Cubs played on Thursday. His second-inning home run brought a bubbling of emotions.
"I've hit a lot of home runs," Rizzo said. "That was probably the most out-of-body experience I've had hitting a home run in my life. … You can't really put it into words."
The Cubs and Marlins wore #MSDStrong T-shirts during pregame, and they had patches with 17 stars on the outside of their uniforms honoring the 17 killed. Happ's home run started an 8-4 win over Miami, but Rizzo hit the one that had the most meaning. The Marlins and Cubs will host victims' families and survivors at Friday's game at Marlins Park.
6. Take a look at the pitch Thor threw to strike out Tommy Pham
This performance may have calmed some of the worries Mets fans had about Noah Syndergaard. He did give up four runs in six innings, but his arm is sound and his stuff filthy, as he fanned 10 Cardinals in a 9-4 win for the Mets. If the 97-mph fastball Syndergaard threw to strike out Pham to end the fifth is any indication, he's fine.
7. And then there was Adam Jones
Jones has been the heart and soul of the Orioles for the past decade, the face of the franchise's rebirth. He did his part on Opening Day with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning for a 3-2 victory over the Twins.
8. Nick Markakis finishes a spectacular Opening Day for the Braves
Atlanta was six outs from a dismal 5-2 loss when it had the kind of comeback that a team can ride to bigger and better things. First, the Braves strung together a workman-like three-run game-tying rally in the bottom of the eighth that featured an Ozzie Albies home run and Freddie Freeman scoring from second on a wild pitch followed by a wild throw to third. And then, in the bottom of the ninth, Markakis ended it with a three-run home run for an 8-5 win.
9. The Rays shock the Red Sox
This game can drive you nuts sometimes. On Sunday, Tampa Bay sent right-hander Austin Pruitt back to Triple-A. The 28-year-old right-hander was crushed that he did not make the team. And then Nathan Eovaldi's elbow injury forced another roster move, and suddenly, Pruitt is back. He pitched two shutout innings on Opening Day and got the win as the Rays put together a six-run rally in the eighth that was capped by a three-run triple by newcomer Denard Span to beat the Red Sox, 6-4.
That game offered a smorgasbord of thrills, from Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier making a remarkable catch of a Mookie Betts ball deep in the gap in the first inning to Red Sox second baseman Eduardo Nunez chugging around the bases with an inside-the-park home run in the second inning. It was the first inside-the-park home run hit on Opening Day since Stephen Drew in 2010 with the D-backs, and the first for Boston since Carl Yastrzemski did so in 1968.
10. Good vibes in Seattle as Ichiro returns and King Felix shines
No matter how much longer Ichiro Suzuki plays, he's likely to remember the warm ovation he received when he stepped into the batter's box for his first game as a Mariner in six years. Speaking of good vibes, there was Felix Hernandez, who pitched 5 1/3 shutout innings. If he's really good, the Mariners believe they're good enough to go to the postseason for the first time in 16 seasons, and Opening Day was a step in the right direction with a 2-1 win over the Indians.
• Some have called Oakland a sleeper team this year, and the A's lent some credence to that when they rallied back from a four-run deficit against the Angels and then walked off in the 11th when Marcus Semien drove home Boog Powell after his one-out triple for a 6-5 victory.
• Baltimore's Craig Gentry robbed Minnesota's Eddie Rosario of a home run with a terrific leaping grab.
• Justin Verlander threw six shutout innings against the Rangers in his first Opening Day start for the Astros.
• Orlando Arcia's 12th-inning single gave the new-look Brewers a 2-1 win in San Diego.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.