After months of waiting, the Major League Baseball regular season has finally arrived. Opening day presents an opportunity for optimism. It’s a chance for the good teams to prove they are for real, and the bad teams to start a surprise run to the postseason.
But not every team can fulfill that promise. Half the teams that play on opening day have to lose. It’s inevitable.
In the grand scheme of things, this means little. Over a 162-game season, one game isn’t enough to draw definitive conclusions. The Chicago White Sox probably don’t have the best offense in baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t going to go scoreless the entire season.
That’s not going to stop us from picking the winners and losers from opening day, though. It might be just one game, but it’s a pretty big one. Every fanbase wants their team to get off to a strong start, so they place extra importance on the first game of the season.
Here’s who we think came through and faltered during the first game on the 2018 Major League Baseball season.
WINNER: GIANCARLO STANTON
Too obvious? Stanton, in his first game with the New York Yankees, Stanton proved he’ll be just as dangerous as advertised. He homered twice (one came off the bat at 117 mph), had an RBI double and drove in four runs. Yep, that’ll do. The Yankees beat the Blue Jays in convincing fashion behind a strong start from Luis Severino. The 2018 Yankees lived up to the hype on Day 1. It won’t happen for 162 — it never does — but in a one-day sample, the Yankees were frightening. (Mike Oz)
WINNER: SHOHEI OHTANI
The first assignment for Shohei Ohtani wasn’t to step on a mound. The would-be Angels two-way star was enlisted as a DH on opening day and he singled in his first at-bat. Given his rough spring, particularly at the plate, getting a hit in first at-bat is enough to get Ohtani on the “winners” list. He didn’t get another one, but didn’t embarrass himself either. He was 1-for-6 in the Angels/A’s extra-innings marathon, but he only struck out once (compared to 10 times in 32 spring at-bats). It wasn’t a soaring victory for Ohtani, but it was a respectable start. (Oz)
LOSER: CARLOS MARTINEZ
Carlos Martinez’s second career opening day start didn’t go nearly as well as his first. Last year, the Cardinals ace struck out 10 over 7.1 scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs. On Thursday, Martinez lasted only 4.1 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on four hits, six walks and five strikeouts in a 9-4 loss to the Mets. It was a winnable game for St. Louis with Noah Syndergaard allowing a pair of home runs early, but Martinez couldn’t get on track. He then capped his miserable day with a dugout meltdown, taking out the team’s bubblegum supply. (Mark Townsend)
WINNER: JUSTIN VERLANDER
Opening day was an overwhelming success for the defending World Series champion Houston Astros. It started with George Springer making opening day history. It continued with their four-man outfield experiment proving successful. It was punctuated by a superb outing from Justin Verlander. Making his 11th opening day start, the 35-year-old right-hander pitched six scoreless innings in Houston’s 4-1 win. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out six, all while looking like the lead ace in Houston’s loaded rotation. (Townsend)
LOSERS: MIAMI MARLINS
In a season where the Marlins are expected to be trailing quite often, the team wasted no time falling behind on opening day. On the first pitch of the 2018 season, Marlins pitcher José Ureña gave up a solo home to Cubs outfielder Ian Happ. The rest of the first inning didn’t get much better. Ureña gave up two walks and hit two batters, bringing home two more runs. The Marlins were eventually able to tie things up in the third, but then the talent disparity started showing as the Cubs pulled ahead late. We all knew it was going to be a long season in Miami, but we didn’t realize how quickly things would go south. (Chris Cwik)
WINNER: ANTHONY RIZZO
Rare is the visiting player who gets a nice ovation for homering on opening day. But that was Anthony Rizzo on Thursday at Marlins Park in Miami. Rizzo, the Chicago Cubs star, is the most famous baseball alum from Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., the site of that horrific school shooting. He and his teammates warmed up in Stoneman Douglas shirts before their game with the Marlins. Once play started, Rizzo launched a homer as part of the Cubs’ 8-4 win and felt the love from his fellow Floridians. (Oz)
WINNER: FELIX HERNANDEZ
There were plenty of questions facing Felix Hernandez before he took the mound for another opening day start. Hernandez was coming off an injury-riddled season that saw him post his highest ERA in over a decade. On top of that, Hernandez suffered a forearm injury during spring training after being hit with a line drive. He recovered faster than expected, and was rewarded with yet another opening day start. Despite those concerns, Hernandez did not disappoint. King Felix turned back the clock, going 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Indians. The Mariners went on to win the contest 2-1, giving Hernandez yet another opening day victory. (Cwik)
LOSER: MIKE TROUT
It pains us to say it, because Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and he usually dominates on opening day. But in 2018, Trout didn’t come through when the Angels needed him. The Angels lost to the Athletics 6-5 in 11 innings, and Trout failed to reach base once. He finished the contest 0-for-6, with one strikeout. Trout had some key at-bats too. In the seventh, he popped out with a runner on second. In the 11th, he struck out with men on first and second. There’s no need to be worried about Trout moving forward. He’s awesome. But he’ll have to wait until Game 2 to get things going in 2018. (Cwik)
WINNER: ADAM JONES/ORIOLES WALK-OFF STREAK
The Orioles have a new tradition apparently. For the third straight year, Baltimore won its season opener with with a dramatic walk-off. Adam Jones played the hero on Thursday, cracking a solo homer off Twins’ closer Fernando Rodney in the 11th inning to clinch a 3-2 victory. Last season, it was Mark Trumbo doing the honors with a walk-off homer. In 2016, Matt Wieters delivered a walk-off. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the first time in MLB history a team has won three straight season openers on a walk-off. As for Jones, the homer saved a rough day that started 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. (Townsend)
WINNER: NICK MARKAKIS
Adam Jones wasn’t the only walk-off hero on opening day. Nick Markakis, a former Oriole himself, connected on a three-run walk-off homer to give the Braves an 8-5 win against the Phillies. Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies also homered for the Braves as they rattled off eight unanswered runs to complete the comeback and spoil Gabe Kapler’s managerial debut with Philadelphia. (Townsend)
WINNERS: WHITE SOX OFFENSE
One day into the 2018 season, the Chicago White Sox have the best offense in baseball. The White Sox’s offense exploded Thursday, bashing a record-tying six home runs on opening day to take down the Royals 14-7. Designated hitter Matt Davidson was the game’s biggest star, drilling three home runs in the contest. He was backed up by shortstop Tim Anderson, who added two dingers. And Jose Abreu, who smacked a long ball of his own. It wasn’t just that trio, though. Every member of the starting lineup except Welington Castillo reached base during the start. It was a tremendous way to kick off the season for a team that many expect to be at least a year away. (Cwik)
LOSER: GABE KAPLER
It was not a good debut for Kapler as Phillies manager. With a 5-0 lead and ace Aaron Nola cruising, Kapler went to the bullpen with one out in the sixth after Nola allowed just his fourth runner of the game. Pitch count wasn’t an issue either with Nola only throwing 68 to that point. Kapler opted to ride his large bullpen, and it backfired. Left-hander Hoby Milner quickly allowed a two-run home run to Freddie Freeman. Four relievers and three innings later, that lead turned into an 8-5 loss on Nick Markakis’ walk-off homer. Perhaps it was a case of managing too hard, or maybe it was just a dreadful day for Philadelphia’s bullpen. Regardless, it was a painful way to begin the season. (Townsend)
WINNER: TY BLACH
No Madison Bumgarner or Jeff Samardzija? No problem. Giants pitcher Ty Blach was the surprise pick to start opening day after injuries took down the Giants’ top-two starters, but he pitched as though that was the plan all along. Blach held the mighty Dodgers scoreless over five innings, picking up the 1-0 win to start the season. He limited the Dodgers to just three hits. And while he did walk three batters, he didn’t allow Los Angeles to capitalize on those opportunities. It was an impressive start that proved a lot of Blach’s doubters wrong — at least for one day. Oh, and he out-dueled Clayton Kershaw. Not a bad way to start the 2018 season. (Cwik)
WINNERS: D-BACKS OFFENSE
What humidor? The Arizona Diamondbacks offense didn’t appear to miss a beat after 2017. The team scored eight runs in a big 8-2 win over the Colorado Rockies. They again got to starter Jon Gray, tagging him for three runs in the first inning, and knocking him out of the game by the fifth. They then proceeded to wreck havoc on Colorado’s bullpen, scoring five additional runs. The most impressive part: They did it without J.D. Martinez, who everyone believed they needed to retain in order to keep up their offensive momentum from last season. (Cwik)
LOSERS: RED SOX AND THEIR BULLPEN
Baseball returned on Thursday. Unfortunately for the Boston Red Sox, their bullpen didn’t. Starter Chris Sale tossed six scoreless innings and the offense staked them to a 4-0 lead, but the Red Sox relief corps couldn’t lock down the final nine outs. Instead, they unraveled, as Joe Kelly and Carson Smith combined to allow six runs in the eighth inning. It put an early spotlight on the loss of Addison Reed, who solidified Boston’s bridge to Craig Kimbrel in his eighth inning role last season. It’s only one game, but it’s a reminder that Boston will need others to step and fill that void. (Townsend)
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