Major League Baseball - Opening Day Review
After the Red Sox and Yankees got us off to a great start with a back and forth opener on Sunday night - the Sox eventually triumphing 9-7 - Easter Monday got the season underway for real, with a full slate of games.
Opening Day is a time of excitement for fans of every team across North America, where all are equal, and they can dream of what the coming 162 games may hold. Of course, there must be a winner and a loser in every game, so while some are now full of expectation for the summer ahead, others are already wondering if they are in for a long season.
The biggest story of Opening Day came during Atlanta’s 16-5 rout of the Chicago Cubs. Jason Heyward, widely considered to be the top young prospect in the game, hit a home-run to deep right-centre field in his very first Major League at-bat. Not a bad way to announce your arrival to The Show.
Roy Halladay introduced himself to the Phillies in style, striking out nine in his first win in Philadelphia colours, as they defeated the Nationals by a score of 11-1 in Washington DC. President Obama threw out the ceremonial first pitch – a ball – to maintain a Presidential tradition that started 100 years ago. As Placido Polanco hit a grand slam, finishing with 6 RBIs, Nationals fans had little else to cheer, and may be in for another long year.
Another perennial struggler, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a brighter Opening Day, as they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers. Garrett Jones homered in his first two at-bats en-route to an 11-5 victory for Pittsburgh at PNC Park.
For some players, they simply started where they left off last year. Albert Pujols crushed two homers in Cincinnati as the Cardinals beat the Reds 11-6. Reigning NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum struck out seven through seven shutout innings as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Astros 5-2 in Houston.
AL Cy Young Zack Greinke had a quality start, giving up just one run in six innings against Detroit, but as was so often the case last year, it was wasted as the Kansas City bullpen imploded, capped by a six-run seventh inning. The Tigers won 8-4.
In Texas, the Blue Jays’ Shaun Marcum – who didn’t pitch at all in 2009 – took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Unfortunately he blew it, and by the time the inning was over, the score was tied at 3. The Rangers tied the game in the ninth, before the wonderfully-named Jarrod Saltalamacchia gave them the walk-off victory.
In a battle of young aces in Milwaukee, the Colorado’s Ubaldo Jiminez outdueled Yovani Gallardo. Carlos Gonzalez had a four-hit day, as the Rockies came out on top 5-3. In Oakland, Felix Hernandez gave the Mariners a great start, which their bullpen proceeded to waste. However their offense got to A’s closer, and reigning AL Rookie Of The Year, Andrew Bailey in the ninth to win it 5-3.
Stephen Drew hit an inside-the-park home run in Phoenix, as the Diamondbacks beat the Padres 6-3. Drew’s long blast hit the overhanging porch high in centre-field, and took a big carom away from Tony Gwynn Jr, as Drew hared round the bases to score. Some might say Drew got a lucky bounce, but the man himself wasn’t bothered about that, as he told MLB.com that he’d never even seen an inside-the-parker in person, let alone hit one.
In New York, the Mets got off to a winning start, defeating divisional rivals Florida 7-1. David Wright started things off, hitting a two-run shot off Marlins ace Josh Johnson in the first inning. On the West coast, the Angels defeated the Minnesota Twins 6-3, buoyed by new singing Hideki Matsui’s first home run in his Los Angeles debut.
Finally, Mark Buehrle pulled off the flashiest defensive play of the day, and perhaps a contender for play of the year; not something you can often say of a pitcher.
In the fifth inning as US Cellular Field, rookie Cleveland catcher Lou Marson lined a shot back at the mound. Buehrle stuck his foot out to stop the ball, sending it rolling towards the first base line. He then sprinted over to the ball, and, with his back to first base, flipped it through his legs with his glove to Paul Konerko on first, the ball just beating Marson’s foot to the bag.
Indians right-fielder Shin Soo Choo described it as: “unbelievable…the best play I’ve ever seen”. Buehrle, along with the accolades, also picked up the win as the White Sox shutout the Tribe 6-0.