Happy opening day! The 2021 MLB season has officially begun. We followed the key moments of each game across the country.
Starting with a snowy AL Central game in Detroit and pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu facing Gerrit Cole in New York, there was plenty to talk about to start the new season.
It didn’t all go smoothly as baseball resumed a full 162-game schedule after the 2020 season shortened by a pandemic, although the Boston Red Sox’s home game against the Baltimore Orioles was postponed due to rain and the game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets in Washington was rescheduled due to COWID-19 issues.
Here are the only baseball moments and general themes that caught our eye on the first day of the 2021 season.
Cody Bellinger hits a home run, but Justin Turner thinks he’s caught, so he runs to first base while Bellinger slams it in and Turner strikes out, and Bellinger is awarded an RBI single.
If a two-run homer isn’t a two-run homer.
Baseball is a gloriously bizarre game that tests the deepest limits of rationality. Take for example the season opener between the defending World Series champion, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Colorado Rockies, which is against the Dodgers in almost every way.
Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger threw a ball into left field that deflected off Raimel Tapia’s glove and flew over the fence at Coors Field. Bellinger, eager to celebrate his heroics, didn’t notice that teammate Justin Turner had retreated to first base for fear of catching the ball. They went through the pedestals. Bellinger was called. Turner scored. Bellinger got a single RBI. He went over the fence. Which, uh… is not rational.
Here’s the macro event: The Rockies won. The Rockies, who not only traded their best player this winter, but also brought in $51 million to offset his salary as a parting gift. The Rockies, whose organizational failures have become the standard by which other teams measure their failures. Rocks that are no good.
And that’s baseball. That’s the glory and the reason why a very bad team can play against a very good team and beat them – in this case, 7-4 – without anyone batting an eye, panicking or thinking twice.
It’s completely irrational that one group of men can be so much better than another, and then when that superior group loses to the inferior group, it’s just another shrug emoji. It’s really strange that Chris Owings, who had 11 hits last season and hadn’t hit a triple in almost two years, had three hits, including a triple, and was the best player on the field.
None of this makes any sense, which is why it’s so easy to love baseball. There’s no chalk. There are no guarantees. There are the Dodgers, who are aiming for 100 wins, and there are the Rockies, who are trying not to lose 100, and the latter defeated the former in the first game of the season. Because of course they did. — Jeff Passan
Teoscar Hernandez throws Gerrit Cole to 437 feet, putting the Blue Jays at 2-2 with the Yankees.
Do not sleep on Teoskar Hernandez.
The Blue Jays are considered one of the most exciting young teams in sports. Despite a trio of top division sons in Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Kavan Biggio, one of the team’s biggest X-factors this season will be Teoscar Hernandez, who had a breakthrough 2020 season, batting .289/.340/.579 with 16 homers and 34 RBI in 50 games.
Hernandez turned the tide for the Blue Jays when he hit a huge solo home run on an 86 mph slider by Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in the sixth inning as a reserve batter between Bichette and Guerrero to bring the game to 2.
The bat of the 28-year-old outfielder will be crucial to Toronto’s playoff hopes. His performance of three strokes in the 10-shot victory was a promising start. -Jung Lee
Gary Sanchez gives Yankees fans a reason to cheer.
Gary Sanchez gave the Yankees the lead in the second inning with a two-run homerun to left field.
For one game at least, Gary Sanchez managed to keep his critics at bay.
Yankees fans have a mixed relationship with Sanchez, but the catcher started the 2021 season strong with a two-run, 407-foot home run to left field for Blue Jays ace Hyun-Jin Ryu in his first at bat of the year.
Whether Sanchez can remain the Yankees’ starting catcher will be one of the team’s most intriguing stories at the start of the season. In 2020, the 49ers hit .147/.253/.365 behind the plate and lost to him in the playoffs, raising the question of whether the 28-year-old two-time All-Star is the team’s best option behind the plate. — Lee…
Miguel Cabrera swings (and slides) in the snow.
Miguel Cabrera hits a two-run homer to right field and slides into the snow to celebrate.
As if we needed a reminder that anything can happen at any time in baseball, we were treated to a refresher of that truth on a snowy day in Detroit at the start of one of the first games of the 2021 MLB season.
On the mound was Cleveland right-hander Shane Bieber, who dominated the 2020 short season with an 8-1 record and 1.63 ERA and was on his way to his first AL Cy Young Award. Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera stood at the plate, the face of the Tigers who has struggled with age and injuries in recent seasons as he tries to take historic steps to rebuild the franchise.
The snowfall in Comerica Park was so deep that at first you couldn’t tell that what was supposed to happen had actually happened.
With two outs and Jimer Candelario on first base, Bieber threw a fastball into the upper outer quadrant of the strike zone. Cabrera hits him and sends a drive into right field. It was impossible to distinguish the ball in the air from the snow, but the ball went over the railing of right field.
Unaware that he had just hit a career home run with No. 488, Cabrera slid – and though the game ended in the 1st – into a tie game. April happened, it wasn’t April Fool’s Day – at second base. — Bradford Doolittle
Jean Segura comes in with a big lead and eliminates Andrew McCutchen. Phillies win 3-2 over the Braves in extra innings.
The Phillies struggled last season. Very rude. Like the sandpaper, the Phyllis sandpaper was coarser than the sandpaper. Philadelphia’s 7.11 bullpen ERA in 2020 was the worst of any team in 91 years. Well, it’s a new season, and this bullpen is the talk of their camp in Florida, and for good reasons.
Aaron Nola’s ace turned against the struggling Braves in the seventh inning of the Phils’ opening game Thursday against Atlanta, giving them a 2-0 lead. He held the Braves to four hits and no walks without scoring a run. He left the first two batters in the game, but rookie Christian Pace doubled. Nola, one of the true and rare hitters in baseball, threw only 81 pitches.
For Phillies manager Joe Girardi, the 2020 version would be an easy choice: Keep his ace or make him the worst bullpen since the Herbert Hoover administration? Nola is staying. A simple phone call. The 2021 version of Girardi made the same decision, and while it was probably the right one, it didn’t work, even on a day when Nola was the only starter on the day to record an out in the seventh inning or more.
The Braves brought in veteran Pablo Sandoval as a batter, and the Panda hit him with an inside fastball at 111.7 mph (per Statcast), sending him into right field for the home run. And just like that day, Nola was dominant.
But that’s where Girardi’s story becomes clearer and could probably cause him to yell a little less in games when he calls up his relief team. Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, Hector Neris and Conner Brogdon pitched combined 3⅓ scoreless innings without much drama. The game eventually went to extra innings, in which the Phillies won on a single by Jean Segura.
Just one game. But maybe it was the game the Phillies needed to start their season.
You should check out Bryce Harper’s shoes for yourself.
Bryce Harper has the most beautiful boots on #OpeningDay pic.twitter.com/r8UzRZYt8Q
– Cut4 (@Cut4) April 1, 2021
Bryce Harper stepped up his latest Philly Fanatic fetish for the season opener against Atlanta, attaching fan-inspired cleats with crazy eyes and stuffed animals. They were even bolder than the Harper version unveiled last July, which was vague. Harper even swung the bat in front of the fanatic’s face. Could the latest iteration be a game of Harper in a bigoted costume? — Doolittle.
Orlando Arcia hits a header through the middle to catch Lorenzo Cain and seal the Brewers’ 6-5 victory over the Twins on Opening Day.
The meeting of the candidates in their respective central units was a major event on the opening day. Large playing field. Costly mistakes. Back in the ninth inning. The extra sleeves. Josh Hader is more handsome than ever. A clear win for Milwaukee.
Among them is Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, 27, not yet talented but still inclined to do amazing things, like hit a baseball into the far corners of American Family Field, 456 feet to left center, at a time when Opening Day feels like the beginning of something new.
No one in baseball teases and taunts him like Buxton, once the best player in baseball, whose dueling injuries and ineffectiveness on days like Thursday are outweighed by his talent. The Twins are a good team, even without Josh Donaldson, who tore a hamstring in his first at bat. The Twins give the Chicago White Sox a scare with Buxton’s performance in Game 1.
It wasn’t just a home run. Buxton walked twice. He stole the base. It patrolled the central field with the range and accuracy of a well-calibrated drone. The threat of his arm kept runners on base. It was a typical Buxton performance: Bat, foot, glove, hand.
Yeah, it’s a game. Buxton has done this before. Last year, he hit 13 home runs in 39 games and walked two. It was a pleasant surprise for him to match his season total in one game, even though it was the second-best production of the day. This home run – the longest of his career – was personal. Opening Day is a day for dreamers, and perhaps no one in baseball is better than Byron Buxton. — Jeff Passan
Kyle Hendricks’ season got off to a rough start when Kyle Bryan Hayes hit a two-run single in the first inning.
Kee’Brian Hayes seems like a real guy.
The Pirates’ young prodigy, Ke’Bryan Hayes, picked up where he left off in spring training, batting .431. On Thursday, he surprised Kyle Hendricks in his first at bat of the first inning and showed the baseball world once again why he is the favorite for NL Rookie of the Year.
In just 24 games during the lockout-shortened 2020 season, Hayes gave us a glimpse of what he could be: a dynamic player on offense and defense, and nothing we’ve seen so far has changed that picture. Hayes later added another walk, but his two-run home run in the first inning was the difference in the Pirates’ victory over the Cubs. Hayes looks like a real man. — Jesse Rogers.
Dylan Carlson hits a three-run home run to right field as the Cardinals catch the Reds in the first inning.
The Reds’ grand experiment of using a third baseman at short and second base got off to a rough start when the Cardinals scored two runs on an error by Eugenio Suarez.
It didn’t help that the Cardinals had redshirt ace Luis Castillo ready for six runs in the first inning. And it certainly didn’t help that Suarez got his first chance on the field during the game, as he struggled greatly and went from hot corner to shortstop late in the game.
In the game in question, the Cardinals scored a run, the bases were loaded and there was one out. Yadier Molina slid one to Suarez, who had to take a few steps backwards to kick the ball. With Molina running slow, Suarez could have made a double play rally. Instead, as he tried to make a quick transition from his glove to his throwing arm, Suarez lost control of the ball, which flew to left field with two runs scored.
Shortly thereafter, Dylan Carlson of St. John’s, Newfoundland, was appointed to this post. The St. Louis native hit a three-run homer from the right post and the Cardinals were on their way to the win in the sixth inning. Suarez also committed an error on his second chance, when he caught a ground ball from Paul Goldschmidt in the second inning and made a throw that got away from first baseman Joey Votto.
The Reds struggled throughout the rest of the match, but the six-point deficit was hard to overcome. Suarez converted his final three chances and reached a hitting percentage of .600 for the game. He also hit a home run, but the problem remains: How long can the Reds keep up this experiment? — Bradford Doolittle
In recent years, Tyler Glasnow competed with Blake Snell and Charlie Morton for the title of best pitcher in the Rays’ rotation. Not anymore. Glaznov has established himself at the top of Tampa Bay’s rotation. Glasnow was ranked 39th in ESPN’s MLB Top 100, but his Opening Day start on Thursday showed that figure may have been too low.
Title L pic.twitter.com/s7daJdkKPV
– Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 1, 2021
Glasnow, 27, pitched six innings against the Marlins, allowed no runs and one hit, while striking out six and walking none. Glasnow added a slider this season, throwing a 26-pitch complete game showcase. Combined with its 100 mph electric fastball, the new breaking pitch gives the Rays’ right-hander an extra tool to keep hitters off balance.
I think in the last two springs, I opened my eyes and thought: Wow, I took two pitches when I shouldn’t have, Glasnow told me this week. I think it’s easier for me in terms of options and guys not selling out. — Lee…
The Padres take over the cleanup of Yu Darvish.
The Padres haven’t officially announced the closer yet, but Mark Melance finished 8-7, Emilio Pagan was seventh and Drew Pomeranz eighth, so watch out, fantasy owners.
There were some concerns about San Diego’s bullpen, especially with several supposed relievers on the injured list, but the Padres had plenty of good arms. Keona Kehl pitched a scoreless sixth inning and the final four relievers allowed just two hits in the last four scoreless innings.
The performance of the two starting pitchers is much more concerning. Yu Darvish got the start on Opening Day in his Padres debut and did not get through five innings, despite a 6-1 lead in the inning. He was clearly and understandably disappointed that he couldn’t get the third out of the fifth. With Dinelson Lamet’s health issues (elbow) and Blake Snell’s questionable durability, the Padres need a big season from Darvish. It took him more than a year to establish himself with the Cubs, but the Padres are counting on him to be their ace – right from the first at bat.
With the Diamondbacks, Madison Bumgarner has done nothing to alleviate concerns about his future after going 1-4 with a 6.48 ERA in 2020. He allowed six runs and seven hits in four innings, including home runs by Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers. After averaging 88 mph on his fastball last year, he averaged 90.2 mph on Thursday, so that may be positive, but there was no team in three outings and both home runs came from shallow scissors. -Dave Schoenfield.
The Rangers won a long, nasty game at home against the Rangers, first by overcoming a five-run rally by the Texans that they overturned in the bottom of the first inning, and then a three-run deficit a few innings later.
The first set was historic, even aesthetic, as Elias reported that it was the first time in an opening match that both teams scored at least five points in the first set.
The game lasted four hours and 26 minutes and featured 17 walks, three errors (all by the Rangers), one wild pitch, two passed balls, three hits, and one batter (Jorge Soler) reached base on a catcher’s interference. But for Kansas City, it was a big wing nut in its own way.
The Royals have been refreshingly aggressive in the offseason, with four KC position players making their debut for the team on opening day. They all contributed to the victory:
- Andrew Benintendi overcame a gaffe in which he allowed three runs by diving and mugging on a sinking liner off the bat of Texas’ Nate Lowe. Shortly thereafter, Benintendi made a nice play on a bad pitch and eventually reached base twice and scored two runs.
- Carlos Santana did exactly what the Royals bought him for. He walked three times, was involved in epically long at-bats, struck out one and scored two runs.
- Michael A. Taylor hit a home run, scored twice and contributed three runs. He also took out two basketball players, both of whom hit shots at speeds that Statcast recorded above 95 mph. The Royals’ middle linebackers had just one assist last season.
- Junior Kyle Isbel scored three points and brought in two. He’s also had a few chances to show his speed in the stadium, making him a great addition to the Royals lineup.
With the win, the Royals accomplished what they haven’t done in almost exactly two years. They finished the race with a record of over 500. That’s a start. — Doolittle.
Athletics fans chase Carlos Correa and hold up signs with the names of the Astros’ cheaters.
Yes, there were about 10,000 boos in Oakland, the loudest of which was directed at Astros third baseman Alex Bregman. However, Zack Greinke did his best to silence A’s fans, and then Bregman himself delivered a closing message that might suggest the Astros will put their offensive woes behind them in 2020.
The first day was not kind to Greinke. He hit three home runs and seven home runs in 2017 and four home runs and seven home runs in 2019 and was 0-2 in four career openings. He was excellent in this game, though, with six scoreless innings – although only three of his 82 pitches reached 90 mph. In an era where speed is of the utmost importance, Greinke remains one of the most enjoyable pitchers in the game, with nearly every radar value in the gun from 69 to 91. Watch and learn, children.
As for Bregman, he, like several other Astros hitters, struggled after the 2020 cheating scandal. His OPS went from 1.015 to .801 (although he suffered mostly after returning from IL). He doubled and his home run in the eighth was a 418-foot blast to left. (Okay, he still got booed when he ran the bases.) Another good sign for Houston: Yordan Alvarez, back after missing all but two games in 2020 due to surgery on both knees, hit the wall for two runs and doubled on his opponent’s throw. — Shoefield
Angels manager Joe Maddon, who has actively fought advanced analytics the past two years that seem to rob him of some of the emotion of the game, expressed his desire for his team to play 1985 baseball.
A photo was taken on opening day.
The Angels’ Lucas Giolito offense and the White Sox’ electric bullpen, including two-out walks by Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon in the fourth and an 11-pitch plate appearance that led to a crucial walk by Justin Upton in the eighth. The pitching staff held strong, first with Dylan Bundy throwing six innings, then with three relievers striking out nine of 10 batters. And the defense was on point, including a spectacular dive into the hole by shortstop Jose Iglesias.
Max Stassi gets a pitch and sends it to center field for a home run that cuts the White Sox lead to 3-2.
The Angels have 10 strikeouts, but only 4 strikeouts in their last 6 innings. They got encouraging results from Upton and Max Stassi – not to mention a 107 mph chase from Shohei Ohtani – but they also worked the counts, moved the runners around, didn’t let the game get away too early and threw it away late.
It was a recipe for Maddon to believe they could win the American League West.
I liked it, he said. You didn’t like it? — Alden Gonzalez
The Giants played seven great innings. Unfortunately, they also played in the bottom of the eighth inning. And down in 10.
San Francisco led 6-1 and six outs. Kevin Gausman retired the Mariners in 6 2/3 innings. Buster Posey hit a home run in his first at bat since 2019. The game was in a box. Instead, the Mariners became the first team since Expo 2002 to score the first run and allow at least five runs in the eighth inning or later. The team scored six runs on only three hits in the eighth inning, while the Giants’ relievers walked three and struckout one. Brandon Belt then turned a double play that could have ended the inning into a two-out throwing error.
Seattle leads 7-6, but the game isn’t over yet. Alex Dickerson tied the score for the Giants with a homerun in the ninth inning. In 10 years, Jose Alvarez came to San Francisco and brought all three fights he faced. With a runner on second base, that means the Mariners broke out. This is the fourth overtime game to set the opening day record. We also had eight one-run games, two more than any other opening day in MLB history.
This will be no consolation to Giants fans, who have seen all the beauty (four home runs!) and all the pain (nine walks!) of amateur baseball pitching. — Shoefield
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