Opening Day was not perfect on Thursday. The schedule was made wonky due in part to the Yankees-Red Sox postponement (that was supposed to be an early highlight matchup), the season itself was a week late due to the late lockout close and the weather in Chicago looked more winter than warm. But none of that really mattered, because baseball was back to give us some small reprieve from what’s been a dark and uncertain stretch for the sport ever since Freddie Freeman got showered in money by David Ortiz last fall.
Thursday’s opening slate felt like an appetizer with half the league still readying for Opening Day: The Sequel on Friday. Friday we will see a number of big-time contenders such as the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Blue Jays and White Sox take the field. Even on a relatively quiet Thursday to start the campaign, though, we saw one complete standout team performance – that coming from the Cardinals, who absolutely drilled the Pirates while getting a shutout showing from Adam Wainwright and three home runs (from Tyler O’Neill, Nolan Arenado and a ninth-place-hitting Tommy Edman) – and one late night thriller which ended on a walk-off three-run homer off the bat of Diamondbacks DH (it’s here!) Seth Beer. Welcome back, baseball.
Hitters with an EDGE
Nico Hoerner - 1-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, R
Anybody who called Hoerner for first homer in the bigs this season should probably go out and buy a lottery ticket. Hitting out of the nine-hole, this was just Hoerner’s fourth career MLB home run in 338 plate appearances. Hoerner hit .302/.382/.369 across 44 games with the Cubs last season. If you successfully call him hitting another homer this year, buy all of us lottery tickets.
Ian Happ - 3-for-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI
Happ had the biggest hit of the Cubs’ opener on Thursday, whacking a deep double to drive in two runs. The ball nearly carried out and probably would have if this were a July matchup. Happ cracked a career-best 25 homers last season, though that long ball tally came with a soggy .226 batting average in 148 games.
Tyler O’Neill - 2-for-3, HR, 5 RBI, R, 1 BB
O’Neill basically wrecked JT Brubaker’s afternoon, picking up an RBI single against him in the first inning before considerably upping the ante with a three-run homer in the second inning. He would loft a sacrifice fly later in the contest to put a wrap on this huge opener. Last year’s breakout season saw O’Neill hit .286/.352/.560 with 34 home runs and 80 RBI in 138 games. Picking up right where he left off.
Paul Goldschmidt - 1-for-1, 2 R, SB, 4 BB
Goldy coming through with our favorite batting line of the day, one which made this crazy universe feel that much more sane in its comfort and familiarity.
Seth Beer - 2-for-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI
The 25-year-old Beer had the most dramatic moment of Opening Day, capping off the Diamondbacks’ ninth-inning comeback with a walk-off three-run home run off of Craig Stamen to propel the D-Backs to a 4-2 win. This was just Beer’s sixth career game in the bigs and his second home run in 13 at-bats.
Pitchers with an EDGE
Shohei Ohtani - 4 1/3 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 9 K on mound; 0-for-4 at plate
Not the lengthiest of outings from Ohtani to start with, but during his time on the mound against the Astros, his stuff was downright wicked. The two-way star was unable to make any hay at the plate, though. Whether Ohtani can carry over his magic from last season will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow this summer.
Adam Wainwright - 6 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K
Wainwright is going to turn 41 years old in August, but the ol’ veteran did not show his age against the Pirates, and he turned in a crisp, workmanlike outing. He finished his six innings of work having thrown just 83 pitches. Old Man Wainwright has turned in ERA’s south of 3.20 in each of the last two seasons.
Tylor Megill – 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K
With pitchers still stretching out, we did not see a ton of length around the majors. That said, Megill gave the injury-riddled Mets’ rotation something to rally around, turning in five sharp innings in an eventual 5-1 win over the Nats. Playing as a rookie last season, Megill posted a 4.52 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 99/27 K/BB ratio in 18 starts covering 89 2/3 innings.
Framber Valdez - 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, O ER, 1 BB, 6 K
In a stellar duel between Shohei Ohtani and Valdez, it was Valdez who lasted just a little bit longer. And it was Valdez who kept the opposition off the board outright (Ohtani allowed one run). Valdez put up a 3.14 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 125/58 K/BB ratio in 22 starts last season.
Yu Darvish - 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 3 K
A really nice start from Darvish in all respects except for his control. The only time the normally on-point Darvish issued as many walks last season was in his final start of the campaign (against the Dodgers).
EDGE Priority Pickup
Spencer Torkelson, 3B, Detroit Tigers – Available in 27% of Yahoo fantasy leagues
The window for picking up Torkelson is already dwindling, rapidly, following the news that he would be playing with the big boys right out of the gate. Tork blasted 61 extra-base hits (in 121 games) across three levels in the minors last summer. Which speaks to his advanced profile for the game – Torkelson went from High-A to Triple-A within the span of a season. Snap him up where available, because he won’t be out there for long, especially if he gets off to a hot start. Torkelson hit .258/.385/.484 with one homer and four doubles in 15 exhibition games this spring.
David Robertson did allow an infield single to Willy Adames with one out in the ninth – putting the would-be tying run on base – but proceeded to strike out Christian Yelich before forcing an Andrew McCutchen ground out to end the contest. Both Robertson and Rowan Wick figure to see save chances for the Cubs this season, but it’s worth noting that Wick struggled when he came on for the eighth inning on Thursday. Robertson looks to be the preferred option at least to start, though the Cubs did not officially declare their closer during spring training.
Scott Barlow technically did not get the save, here, but rather the win, as he entered the game with matters tied at 1-1 in the eighth inning. While he did allow a couple of singles, he also fanned three over his two innings of work. Barlow picked up 16 saves in 71 appearances last season and should be a low-grade dependable source of saves upcoming.
Tony Santillan tossed a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts while earning the save in the Reds’ 6-3 win over the Braves. Santillan was actually a contender for a rotation spot during spring ball. Look for Cincinnati to try a number of different options for the ninth this summer. Hunter Strickland, Luis Cessa, Art Warren and Justin Wilson are all back-end options in addition to Santillan.
Ryan Pressly came on for the ninth looking to protect a 3-1 lead. He immediately made the job more difficult than it needed to be, allowing a leadoff single to Mike Trout, before settling to record an Anthony Rendon flyout and a Tyler Wade double-play ball. Pressly recorded a career-best 26 saves during his breakout 2021 season and we would not be surprised if he topped that mark this year.
Friday’s Matchup of the Day
A Yankees-Red Sox opener deferred is still a Yankees-Red Sox opener. We haven’t seen the matchup on Opening Day in nine years. So that, in and of itself, is fun. This Eovaldi-Cole pairing is also a rematch of last year’s AL Wild Card play-in game, which saw Cole fall short in the biggest contest of the season. In six starts against the Yankees last season, Eovaldi put up a 3.71 ERA – one which was bogged down by a seven-run-allowed debacle last season. Cole struggled to a 4.91 ERA in four starts versus Boston last summer.
Cole and the Yankees, of course, will not be able to redeem their 2021 postseason failures in this one game alone. But at the same time, we are guessing they have been stewing on Oct. 5, 2021 through the whole of the winter.
AL Quick Hits: Joe Maddon does not plan on limiting Shohei Ohtani’s steal attempts after he swiped 26 last season. … Bradley Zimmer on the move from the Guardians to the Blue Jays. … Royals SS Bobby Witt Jr. doubled in his highly-anticipated debut vs. the Guardians. … Ken Giles, making his way back from Tommy John surgery with the Mariners, is currently dealing with a right finger strain. … Josh Donaldson is expected to bat leadoff in his pinstripe debut vs. the Red Sox on Friday. … Rafael Devers will not sign a contract extension with Boston prior to Friday’s opener against the Yankees.
NL Quick Hits: Pete Alonso was forced out against the Nationals after taking a pitch to the shoulder/head region and should be considered day-to-day. … Mets acquired RHP Adonis Medina from the Pirates for cash considerations. … Paul Goldschmidt walked four times against the Pirates. … Odúbel Herrera landed on the 10-day IL with an oblique strain. … Taylor Rogers will see first cracks at closer for the Padres. … Nick Ahmed to the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation. … Mike Clevinger landed on the 10-day IL with a right knee sprain retroactive to April 4. … Jacob deGrom officially hit the 10-day IL with a stress reaction on his right scapula. … Reds manager David Bell hopes that Luis Castillo (shoulder) will be able to return before the end of April. … Mickey Moniak was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his right hand/wrist. … Max Scherzer will start against the Nationals on Friday after being pushed from the opener due to a hamstring issue.