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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

April 5, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Jumping to conclusions: Snap judgments from Opening Day


What did we ever do before gamecasts? Jumping back and forth between games on the computer and TV, it was hard to get any work done today. On the other hand, that IS my work. Lucky me.

Here are some quick thoughts on the games that have already been played, in which I totally ignore the concept of “small sample size”:

Braves 16, Cubs 5: It was hard not to be moved by Jason Heyward’s three-run home run in his first major-league at-bat (the picture above shows him being congratulated by teammate Brian McCann) It was very reminiscent of Ken Griffey Jr. homering on the first pitch he saw in Seattle at the Kingdome, off Chicago’s Eric King (after doubling off Dave Stewart in Oakland in his first major-league at-bat).

Special players rise to the moment. I’m not going to go too crazy off one game and one spring, but this guy looks every bit like an elite player. It’s going to be fun watching him blossom.

I can only imagine how grumpy Lou Piniella was after this game.

Phillies 11, Nationals 1: President Obama , who threw out the first pitch, might have done a better job than Nationals starter and fellow lefty John Lannan. A few more games like this, and the clamor to bring up Stephen Strasburg is going to be loud and steady in the D.C. Meanwhile, Roy Halladay with the Phillies’ lineup behind him is going to be a great marriage.

Oh, yeah: Miguel Batista’s Nationals debut: 1 2/3 innings, three hits, four walks, five earned runs.

Cardinals 11, Reds 6: Apparently, new Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire has done wonders with this Pujols kid, who went 4-for-5 and hit two homers.

One ominous sign for the Cards: Ryan Franklin giving up three hits and two runs in a ragged ninth. Of course, nursing an 11-4 lead, he probably was just concerned with throwing strikes.

Mets 7, Marlins 1: Just goes to show you that a team can be filled with turmoil and trouble, but if they have a pitcher like Johan Santana on the mound, all is well. For one game, at least.

Nice debut for Jason Bay, who had two hits, including a triple. David Wright hit a homer after having only five at home all last year. And you’ve got to love this: During pre-game introductions, the crowd at Citi Field booed the Mets’ training staff.

Pirates 11, Dodgers 5. I’m still not exactly sure why Joe Torre selected Vicente Padilla to be his Opening Day starter. It’s not a good reflection on the strength of the Dodger staff.

Pirates’ fans, here’s your buzz kill: The Buccos beat the Cardinals on Opening Day last year, propelling them to…99 losses. Still, it must have been good to be Garrett Jones today. Jones homered in his first two at-bats. It might be time to start paying a little closer attention to this guy, who hit all of his 21 homers last year after July 1. He’s one of only two players to have zero homers on July 1 and wind up with 20 or more.

In the ex-Mariner department, Jeff Clement started at first and went 1-for-3 with a run scored, and Ronny Cedeno was at shortstop, going 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Rockies 5, Brewers 3: Ubaldo Jimenez seems primed for a really big year, and he got off to a nice start in that pursuit (six innings, one run, six strikeouts). It was a good day for Carloses: Carlos Gonzalez went 4-for-5 for Colorado, while Carlos Gomez went 4-for-5 for Milwaukee. Both can go to sleep tonight with .800 batting averages.

Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3: OK, time to start the Adrian Gonzalez watch: 2-for-4 with a home run.

Last year, when Florida’s Emilio Bonifacio hit an inside-the-park homer on Opening Day, it was the first time that had happened in 41 years. Stephen Drew did it today for Arizona. Baseball’s funny that way.

White Sox 6, Indians 0. Cleveland starter Jake Westbrook was one of three American League starters on Opening Day who didn’t throw a pitch last season (Ben Sheets and Shaun Marcum were the others). Westbrook gave up five runs in four innings, and threw four wild pitches.

The way Mark Buehrle was dealing, you knew it had to be a fast game. Sure enough: two hours and 24 minutes — or about six innings worth of Yankees-Red Sox. Best sign for the Chisox: A homer and diving catch by Alex Rios, who is a huge key to their success.

Rangers 5, Blue Jays 4: Maybe the best game of the day so far. The aforementioned Marcum, who like Westbrook was rehabbing from elbow surgery last year, took a no-hitter into the seventh. Bob Feller is the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter on Opening Day, and that remained the case when Vlad Guerrero singled with one out in the seventh, after a walk by Josh Hamilton. And then, boom, a three-run homer by Nelson Cruz, and the game was tied, 3-3. I’d love to see a study on how pitchers do after losing their no-hitter in the seventh inning or later. I have a sense that the letdown factor is huge. It just seems like they get shelled by subsequent hitters.

Anyway, the Rangers ended up winning it by scoring two in the bottom of the ninth, with the decisive hit being a single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. (Bonus points and my undying admiration to anyone who can come up with an acronym for Saltalamacchia, the longest last name in major-league history).

Oh, yeah: Ryan Garko: 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter.

Tigers 8, Royals 4: I was really looking forward to the Zack Greinke-Justin Verlander matchup. Greinke out-pitched Verlander, but when you’re a Royal, with that bullpen behind you, it doesn’t mean much. Greinke gave up one earned run in six innings — one more ER than he gave up in his first four starts last year.

Yuniesky Betancourt homered for the Royals, which will probably embolden him to forget everything the KC coaches have been trying to drum into him all spring about selectivity at the plate.

(Photo by Associated Press)



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